City budget discussions expected this month

City budget discussions expected this month

January looks to be a big month for budget discussions in the city of Champaign with a few key topics scheduled for city council meetings during the next several weeks.

The council this month could approve a natural gas use tax, which will not directly affect the vast majority of Champaign residents but will tack a fairly large payment onto energy bills for some larger entities. Of the city´s 24,000 natural gas consumers, the new fee would affect only about a dozen agencies, but is expected to generate about $100,000 annually in new revenue. The tax would only affect gas customers who do not already pay a utility tax.

The $100,000 in extra revenue is a very small percentage of the city's $68.4 million operating budget, but a decent chunk of the $1.8 million gap officials are hoping to close in the next six months.

Council members could review a "voluntary separation incentive" program officials hinted at in November. The details of that program have yet to be made public, but essentially what it means is that city employees could be offered some kind of economic incentive package to quit their jobs. Officials hope the end result would be less stress on the city's personnel budget, and Finance Director Richard Schnuer said in November that he hopes it "would mitigate the need for layoffs."

Also expected is a city council review of the city's budget strategies. Like I mentioned above, officials are trying to close a $1.8 million gap during the next six months and a $4.3 million gap during the next year and a half. Residents should expect an impact on some of the services they receive from the city, but exactly where has yet to be finalized.

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