With the budget balanced, Peoria looks to add positions and police officers

By Audrey Williams

October 9, 2012 Updated Oct 10, 2012 at 10:04 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- It's been more than five years since the Peoria City Council began budget talks with a surplus. After years of having a deficit and cutting positions, the city has it's lowest employment level in 20 years, they are now starting to rebuild certain services.

Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich said the proposed 2013 budget is tight but most importantly, it's balanced. It's balanced to the tune of $77,000, said Urich.

On that note, the council is now looking to re-add eight positions. Two will be in the community development department, one in information systems and five in the police department.

Two of the positions in the police department would coordinate and lead the department's 'Don't Shoot' program.

"One of them would coordinate local services for gang members and other target offenders that would participate in our program and essentially say to us that we're willing to put our guns down, which is our goal," said Peoria Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard.

The other three positions would be residential officers, something Urich said has seen great success in other cities.

"What it would mean from the city's stand point is that we would be looking at purchasing houses in certain neighborhoods. Then that officers wouldn't have to report and drive through a district. They would literally work in that neighborhood to try and address the policing issues that we see," said Urich.

This year, the city will enter into contract talks with both the police and fire unions. Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis hopes the additional positions will show a positive message to the police union.

"We're hearing what the police chief is saying. We're complying with his requests for additional manpower in specific areas," said Ardis. "If the budget was in a different situation maybe we could afford to do more but I think we're still doing quite a bit under still a tight budget."

The council hopes to finalize the 2013 budget by the end of October.

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