Bloomington Looks At Budget Issues

By Jeff Muniz

July 15, 2010 Updated Nov 14, 2007 at 9:05 PM CDT

For the first time in five years, Bloomington's city budget is bleeding red. The city is short $3 million dollars. City leaders are now looking at closing some parks or adding some extra costs.

Steve Saarinen says he's topped off with taxes. As a Bloomington Bar and Restaurant owner he already has to charge an additional 2% of sales tax. That tax came when the city needed cash in 2003. Now, the city is considering adding another quarter percent.

The Reality Bites Restaurant owner said, "Where it's $2 a pop for each drink, the tax is already worked into it. Now, they're going to take more taxes out and hurt us as a business. "

Alderman Allen Gibson said, "We have to have a permanent solution to debt and a sales tax is a permanent solution."

Gibson doesn't like the other cuts being considered like closing O'Neil Park pool, selling Highland Park Golf Course and increasing garbage fees.

"The garbage pick-up, we've probably got the best in the state of Illinois."

Alderwoman Judy Stearns says the best for Bloomington doesn't stop there. "In my view, we have a top heavy administration that's well paid. Our city benefits are not even on par with State Farm. We have the Cadillac of benefits. We need to bring our city benefits in line with what corporate America is doing."

The Bloomington City Manager says the Coliseum counts for half of the city's $3 million deficit. Rising pension costs for police and fire are also major contributors.

"We can look at expenses in spending. Our salaries for full time employees have gone up $7-million in four years," said Stearns.

"The taxpayers are going to have to pay it one way or another," added Gibson.

Saarinen would rather see parking meters in front of his place than have customers pay more in sales tax.

Bloomington's next budget would start in May.

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