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Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008 06:29 am

Mayor releases budget, uses blue-ribbon proposals

No tax increase, but CWLP will help pay the bill

Last week Mayor Tim Davlin released his fiscal year 2010 budget, announcing that a once-anticipated hike in property or sales taxes is not needed to buoy the city’s projected $12.6 million shortfall. Instead his $117 million proposal relies on new recommendations from the blue ribbon committee on Springfield city finances.

The committee — 13 financial experts appointed in February to study and manage the city’s unfunded $115.4 million contribution to state police and fire pensions — suggested that the city close the southeast and west branches of the Lincoln Library; eliminate two fire positions and two police positions through attrition; cut $220,000 from the fire department; and cut $1 million from the public works department to address the mandated payments and the city’s resulting deficit.

“I’m going to go along with those recommendations,” says Davlin, who estimates that the cuts will save the city $1.87 million next fiscal year. “Those are 13 people who understand our finances better than anyone else in the city. I don’t like cutting $1 million out of public works or losing two firemen or policemen, but it’s a balanced budget.”

Davlin also included in his budget proposal the committee’s plan for two new revenue enhancers: increasing the telecommunications tax from 1 percent to the state maximum of 6 percent, to solely fund Lincoln Library, and increasing the Wholesale Utility Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) — a transfer of City Water, Light & Power’s retained earnings to the corporate fund — to 30 percent of the net income gained from electricity sold to utilities and communities outside Springfield.

Davlin calls this measure “innovative,” because it reduces the burden on capital city residents. He estimates that PILOT revenues will increase to $6 million during fiscal year 2010, and to $11.85 million once City Water, Light & Power’s Dallman 4 becomes fully operational.

“Without the PILOT program, we have some major decisions the aldermen would have to make — either increase the property or sales tax,” Davlin says. “PILOT makes so much sense. Here we are, using that as a dividend for the amounts we’ve all paid in to build that power plant.”

The mayor also suggests reducing office supplies by 11 percent, equipment by 80 percent, and travel by 19 percent.

Aldermen will begin discussing the mayor’s budget proposals in January.

Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com.

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