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NORMAL — Normal residents may not notice a 16 percent drop in town spending at first — but they will sooner or later, officials say.

"There's probably not gonna be an immediate and obvious impact, but in the long run it does impact our ability to provide services to the community," said City Manager Mark Peterson of the town's 2018-19 budget proposal, which is down $20 million from the year before. "There are tangible things people value that we're not going to be able to do."

The $102 million spending plan up for a council vote Monday includes most of the town's familiar services but cuts others — including 24 employees and a big subsidy for trash disposal fees. Those moves were necessary to fight falling local funding, higher state fees and a slower-growing Bloomington-Normal, officials said.

The full document says for the first time exactly which positions will be cut in coming years, including communications director, economic development director, assistant to the city manager, three Children's Discovery Museum workers, two street maintenance workers, two engineers, a custodian, a garbage collector, an accountant and a parking enforcement officer.

"Other people will need to step up and work a little harder," said Peterson.

Ending the trash subsidy will mean significantly higher bills for residents, who currently pay $18 per month. That figure will go up to $24 on April 1, then rise again each April until it's $32 per month in 2021.

Sewer fees also are set to spike, from about $10 per month for the average household last fall to about $22 by April 2023. Water fees will go up another 2 percent this year as well, and residents now will be billed monthly for water.

Several other cuts discussed this winter also are in the final budget, including the Orlando Avenue police substation, the town's housing rehabilitation program and the Bone grant for historic homes. Other initiatives will be reduced, including Harmon Arts Grants, Normal Newsline and training.

"At the time we opened (the substation), we felt a presence in that area was necessary. Things have stabilized in that neighborhood. We'll still maintain a significant presence there when needed," said Peterson. "It was mostly a convenient location for our officers and others to stop in the field and do reports, and that won't be available."

Officials were able to spare one popular program, however: Drop-box recycling will stay thanks to a partnership with recycling center Midwest Fiber. Drop-off electronics recycling also may stay, pending funding agreements with the city of Bloomington and McLean County, though city officials have questioned whether they can help pay for the program.

“We’ve been having pretty positive discussions," said County Administrator Bill Wasson. “Discussions are ongoing.”

Budget cuts also have changed plans for a new Normal Public Library. Library officials now are considering an on-site expansion rather than a new $20 million-plus building in the future "Uptown South" district.

Peterson said that despite that, the town is pushing forward with "Uptown South," which would turn the city hall annex site south of the railroad tracks and surrounding property into a library, residences and commercial properties.

"It's very much alive," he said of the concept, which would leverage a potential railroad underpass at Uptown Station. "The library was never the linchpin. It's an important piece, but it could create an opportunity for something else to go into the south uptown area."

Normal City Council will consider approving the budget 7 p.m. Monday on the fourth floor at Uptown Station. A public hearing on the budget will precede the council's regular meeting.

Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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Normal and McLean County Reporter

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