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Bloomington considers hiring six amid cuts

Bloomington considers hiring six amid cuts

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BLOOMINGTON - City officials may add six jobs in the coming year after two years of budget cuts trimmed Bloomington's work force by 11 percent.

That does not signal the end of spending cuts, however. A balanced, $68.2 million budget plan presented to the City Council on Monday proposed across-the-board cuts of 20 percent for the Bloomington-Normal Convention and Visitors' Bureau, Economic Development Council of Bloomington-Normal and the Downtown Bloomington Association.

"When our internal departments are being asked to cut back, why shouldn't they be asked to share the pain, too?" Ward 1 Alderman Bernard Anderson asked.

No one from the agencies attended the meeting. They were not notified of the proposed cuts until Monday afternoon.

The proposed 2010-11 budget, which would begin May 1 if approved, calls for an internal auditor to be added to the finance department.

City Manager David Hales said the auditor would monitor the city's budget and accounts in addition to an outside firm hired to conduct an annual audit of the city's books.

In a series of audits last year, outside auditors found nearly $1 million in overpayments to a west-side redevelopment fund along with about $900,000 in insurance premiums that were set aside but not paid.

Hales said he also is looking to add a marketing or communications manager for the administrative offices.

"Gone are the days when we can rely on others to tell our story," Hales said. "We need to do a better job of telling the public about the programs we are offering and what we are doing."

An additional employee in the city clerk's office would handle the increasing number of Freedom of Information Act requests and help the city catch up on its council proceedings. Responding to a resident's complaint, the Illinois attorney general's office informed the city last year that its recordkeeping was insufficient.

How much those positions would add to the budget was not available Monday night.

The city also will hire three firefighters, which will help the fire department staff Station 6, near the air traffic control tower at the Central Illinois Regional Airport. The station is set to open this summer.

Last year, the city cut $4 million from its salary costs by eliminating 71 employees. Fourteen employees were laid off and another 56 positions were vacated through an early retirement program were left unfilled.

Although there will be jobs added in the proposed budget, about 140 non-union employees will see a pay freeze. The city will continue negotiating with its nine unions in an effort to get a one-year wage freeze from about 460 union employees.

The proposed reductions to the outside economic development agencies will mean the visitors' bureau will go from $564,000 contribution to $451,000, the EDC will go from $80,000 to $64,000, and the DBA will go from $195,000 to $156,000.

Aldermen did not cut into the agencies' requests for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

For now, the general fund budget proposal is balanced and actually calls for $500,000 to go toward rebuilding the city's reserves.

The city's total spending for the coming fiscal year, including capital projects on top of the general fund, is expected to be about $144.8 million.

A work session on the proposed budget is planned for 8 a.m. Saturday. The city will have a budget open house at 6 p.m. March 30 at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, 600 N. East St.

The proposed budget is expected to be voted on by the council at its meeting April 12.



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