Fireworks at Springfield Committee of the Whole as council nears budget deadline
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WICS) —
There were fireworks at the Committee of the Whole as Aldermen and the Mayor butted heads with a budget battle.
Dozens filled the city council chambers as well as the hallway Tuesday.
Ward 10 Alderman Ralph Hanauer accused the Mayor of not balancing a budget for the 2019 fiscal year.
The Mayor responded saying the budget deficit ranged from $8.5 - $11.5 million and that he based the proposal on the lower end because of money fluctuation as well as the hopes of having the Bicentennial make up for some of the budget-hole.
He said tax increases failed in the past partially through analysis paralysis and if Aldermen had passed them, Springfield would - without a doubt - not be in the situation.
"Passion comes in,” said Mayor Jim Langfelder. “You know voices get raised a little bit, but that shows people care and I think that’s the importance of discussing it out in the open because that’s what government is all about."
The Mayor said Aldermen need to commit to difficult decisions. The only tax to pass last year was Motel-Hotel tax. This year, so far, the telecom tax passed, where the money would only go to the library.
Weeks ago, the Mayor proposed a budget to the council which included a quarter percent sales tax increase and over $3 million in cuts. Now it's up to Aldermen to decide what to cut and what to raise.
Dozens of firemen were at the meeting concerned about what could happen to their department when it came to budget cuts.
Some residents said they would rather raise taxes than cut services.
They said no one wants to be on hold when they call 911.
Another resident said raising taxes wouldn't fill the budget hole and instead, he suggested cutting personnel including Springfield firemen which Ward 7 aldermen Joe McMenamin agreed.
The room filled with firemen who were worried about how the training officers would fit into the year.
"It'll affect the residents through response times,” said Springfield Fire Captain Gary Self. “When you have less firefighters on the street you have less firefighters to respond with specific incidents."
"I think we have to address our structural problems,” said one resident David Sykuta. He said he understands cutting firemen may hurt residents now but said saving on pensions, salaries, and benefits would help in the long run. “And if it costs a few jobs now it will save a lot more jobs later."
The Mayor said he hopes the Bicentennial celebrations will help fill the budget hole.
Other suggestions tonight include Girl’s scouts asking Council to keep solar array to protect the resources for clean air.
Many said Tuesday, they hope the aldermen can make the best choices for Springfield residents.
The budget deadline is March 1.