BLOOMINGTON — Mayor Tari Renner sees the city as being in good shape despite some key administrative changes in 2018, but he says funding some big-ticket improvements will be challenging.
"We went from having the city manager leave, to an interim city manager, to a new city manager and now a new deputy city manager, a new clerk and a new police chief," said Renner. "So we have had some key personnel changes, but we seem to have moved forward without a glitch in our operations."
He added: "Our operating budget situation is in very good shape, but our biggest challenge is our capital expenditures in the future, and that is what I am going to focus on."
Renner said Friday those are the themes he plans to convey in his state of the city address Monday night when the City Council meets at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
Capital expenditures being considered over the next five years include more than $175 million in street and sewer repairs, a $10 million rejuvenation of O'Neil Park and replacement of its pool and a $28.8 million expansion of the public library.
Renner also wants "property acquisition in strategic areas of downtown and other neighborhoods" added to that list.
"So we need to think about and understand capital budget financing more effectively," he added.
The city likely will have to issue bonds to pay for some of the improvements.
Private companies have expressed interest in buying the city-owned Grossinger Motors Arena. If the building is sold, it could eliminate about $22 million in debt the city still owes on the 13-year-old facility.
"There's nothing wrong with floating bonds," said Renner. "That's the way Normal has done so. Even if people lately may have thought some versions of Normal's uptown projects are more controversial, no one can argue that they didn't turn idle property into something productive."
The mayor also noted Normal has more debt than Bloomington but the town has a top credit rating of AAA and the city's is a notch lower.
Normal's bond debt was $94 million as of September, while Bloomington's was $57.8 million as of April.
"So it depends on what kind of debt you get into," said Renner. "If you grow your debt to grow your community that's a different story than if you go into debt to pay this week's bills."
The city is projecting a $500,000 budget surplus for the fiscal year starting in May, according to City Manager Tim Gleason.
Revenue exceeded expectations as a result of an austere fiscal 2019 budget that was balanced with cuts in curbside collection of bulk waste, increasing sewer bills and fees for garbage carts and other services.
Renner said: "The question we as elected officials have to answer is, does this require a policy change or is this a one-time spike in the murder rate? If it's a trend then we will need to do a deep dive and make some changes and work with law enforcement to keep our citizens safe."
In other action Monday, the council will consider:
• Awarding a contract to Ace Sign Co., which submitted the lowest of two bids to install wayfinding and welcoming signs downtown. Cost is not to exceed $580,080, and the amount will depend on whether the council chooses several alternatives added to the base bid.
Previously, the city paid Pittsburgh-based KMA Design $90,285 to design the signage and prepare construction documents for the bidding process.
• Awarding a $558,460 contract to Peoria-based Hanson Professional Services Inc. to complete a second phase of design for the extension of Hamilton Road between Bunn Street and Commerce Parkway to complete a continuous east-west corridor south of Veterans Parkway.