Three Bloomington aldermen on Tuesday heard a variety of ways to attack a looming budget deficit of nearly $3 million for the new fiscal year that starts May 1, including a suggestion to privatize solid waste collection.
Ward 6 Alderman Karen Schmidt asked for ideas from the roughly 30 people at a town hall meeting at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts. The meeting was co-hosted by Schmidt and Aldermen David Sage and Scott Black.
Some residents offered revenue-generating ideas but others focused more on stopping new spending.
Dennis Arnold suggested raising lease fees for homeowners at Lake Bloomington.
“Why are we charging 1940’s prices when they re-up? This is the 21st century. They’re paying nothing for a 99-year lease,” he told Schmidt, who appeared to agree offering an affirmative, “yeah.”
Resident Surena Fish suggested doing away with city-paid consultants. She advised creating a policy that would reject any project that requires outside expertise. Gary Lambert said Bloomington should do away with land acquisition by the city. He also suggested selling city-owned land and facilities including the southwest Bloomington fire station on Six Points Road that was built but never used because of building issues and staffing requirements.
“If we sell it then we get tax revenue and we’re not maintaining it anymore," he said. "That’s what I see as a really nice turnaround for the city.”
Resident Glen Ludwig proposed several options to cut spending including not allocating money for entertainment venues.
“This is not Branson folks. This is Bloomington,” he shouted after attempting to sing a line from the song “Let Me Entertain You.” He suggested doing away with expenditures on Sister City programs.
“We don’t need to continue going to Japan or wherever else we go. We need to start developing relationships with our neighbors here soon,” Ludwig said while also raising his voice.
Schmidt responded, “I totally agree with that.”
Ludwig’s self-described controversial suggestion for privatizing solid waste collection was echoed by at least one other resident who suggested it could save the city money.
Interim City Manager Steve Rasmussen explained trash collection actually makes the city money, but brush and bulky waste service has put the city $1.2 million in the hole because fees and taxes don’t cover collection.
Rasmussen will soon outline more details of a recommendation to reduce bulky waste collection to one week, twice a year in the spring and fall and reducing the fleet of garbage and recycling trucks in half by possibly running two shifts a day.
That approach could have a downside.
“What that means is you may complain because the truck is coming through and picking up trash at 10 o’clock at night, but that’s what it would be because it will cost half as much that way.”
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.