NORMAL — About 20 Normal employees can expect to lose their jobs this year, and some programs, including recycling drop-off sites, will be eliminated  as well.

Town officials plan to cut the equivalent of 20 full-time positions effective April 1 as part of wide-ranging budget cuts discussed at the City Council's annual budget work session Thursday.  The town is looking at a $4.25 million annual gap in its $102.5 million budget.

"Some of these positions are already vacant. Some will be vacated through attrition. Some will retire. And some employees will be let go," said City Manager Mark Peterson. Some retirees will stay on past April 1, he added.

The town already is losing five other employees through early retirement buyouts approved last fall. Three of those employees are already gone; another two will retire Dec. 31.

The town will save $2.3 million from all the employee departures.

The cuts will cost the town four administration jobs; 3.25 in cultural arts; three in the police department; three in public works; 2.75 in parks and recreation; two in engineering; one in facilities; and one in finance.

"It's manageable, but people need to understand it does come with consequences. You don't lose 25 people and not have any impact on service levels," Peterson told The Pantagraph. He noted that the three police positions to be cut are not patrol officers.

The council also agreed through a series of straw polls to eliminate its drop-box recycling program, a $140,000 annual savings; the Bone Grant program, $25,000; its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day banquet, $25,000; and the Normal Police substation on Orlando Avenue, $20,000.

Council members Chemberly Cummings, R.C. McBride and Kevin McCarthy said they want the town staff to immediately begin work on an ordinance forcing multifamily residential landowners to offer recycling services on-site to help those who rely on the drop-box service.

The town also plans to end its electronics recycling program if Bloomington and McLean County don't agree to help fund it. Normal pays $75,000 per year for the program, which takes waste from anywhere.

Other programs are set to be reduced. The town would stop contributing to PATH (Providing Access To Help) Crisis Center's housing rehab program, a $30,000 savings; the Harmon Arts Grant program would be halved, to $25,000; the Normal Newsline newsletter would be reduced from quarterly to annual production, a undetermined savings; and travel and training will be reduced from $125,000 per year to an amount to be decided.

The council rejected closing the pool at Anderson Park, which, in addition to serving as a community pool, houses several parks and recreation programs and local swim teams. Members also did not address more than a dozen other possible cuts suggested by town staff.

In addition to cuts, the town plans to nearly double its waste collection fee over the next three-plus years.

The deficit is caused by falling revenues and Bloomington's withdrawal from the Metro Zone cost-sharing agreement, a $1.2 million hit for the town. Mayor Chris Koos pointed out that sales tax is a big part of the problem.

"Citizens of Normal, I'm going to challenge you: if this is a problem for you, help us out and start spending your dollars locally more. We depend on that," said Koos. "You can be a partner in what we're doing by spending locally."

Officials recommended a variety of smaller measures, including extending the useful life of town-owned vehicles, removing business development funds, eliminating a contingency fund and reducing general fund reserves, to address budget problems for the next two years, but said more is needed to deal with the town's long-term budget problems.

The cuts will be finalized later this winter, possibly in early March.

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Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh



Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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