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Normal Town Council – “One of the best budgets presented”

Written by on March 7, 2023

NORMAL, Ill.- The Normal Town Council held their first town meeting of the month on Mar. 6.

The council approved Monday night a $205.4 million budget for the next fiscal year, with Finance Director Andrew Huhn stating it is one of the best budgets for the town that he has presented, with significant revenue increases from areas like food and beverage tax, while maintaining pension funding and keeping the housing tax flat.

Huhn presented the key notes of the 370 page five-year operating and capital investment budget, which highlighted positive signs for Normal that outlined a continued plan to restructure and pay down long term debt, along with gains in revenue from economic externalities like Rivian and Ferrero Rocher bringing business and commerce to the city.

Huhn also covers the potential road bumps which the city may endure, such as the potential for a recession to hit near the end of this year. The city also plans to pick the right time for investment in larger scale projects such as an additional fire station to serve the growing populace, which the city would prefer to pick at a time when the cost of long term debt isn’t so high amid heightened interest rates.

The budget proposal passed 6-1, with all council members in favor aside from Council Member Stan Nord, who voted no due to the budget’s inclusion to fund $750,000 to a contingency fund for the city. The fund would provide any emergency funding which the city may need, though Nord contested the proposal due to the government being in a “use it or lose it” mindset for budgeted funds, which would incentivize the city to spend the taxpayer funds rather than save.

Nord’s claim was met with criticism by the other council members, with Karyn Smith stating how the fund existence is “non-negotiable”, and how during times of uncertainty like the early months of the pandemic, the fund was used to ease shortfalls as it was unclear if any additional funding would be given to Normal from the state and federal government. Financial Director Huhn provided some context for Nord, how the city maintains frugal spending behaviors, and the inclusion of the contingency represents less than one percent of the proposed budget.

The city also approved a plan to use $1 million in funds from the motor fuel tax in order to fund the town’s street resurfacing projects, set to begin this year. The project funded by the motor fuel tax would help repave nearly a dozen streets in Normal, alongside the General Street resurfacing project which would cover an additional 16 streets to be repaired. These projects represent a jump in road infrastructure funding from economic growth in the area, with a leap from $4.7 million to the projected $8.3 million worth of roadway projects to be completed.

An intergovernmental agreement was passed by the council, which would allow the city to work with the Ecology Action Center. The Normal town staff who worked on the project previously ran a trial with Illinois State University and it’s related ecology departments, and announced that they would be open to formally working with Illinois State University on the project as well.

The city will also move to purchase $811,000 worth of dump trucks from Rush Truck Centers. The public works department currently uses 10 dump trucks for year round service, and the additional purchase will replace four out-of-service trucks.

Additional contracts were approved for related roadwork safety and water main servicing, with a $115,000 agreement made with Core & Main, based in Washington, Ill. for repair work.

The town’s next council meeting will be at 7 p.m. on March 20, 2023.