Mayor's $58.4 million budget up for approval in Urbana

URBANA — The city council this week could sign off on Mayor Laurel Prussing's $58.4 million budget with few changes from last year.

Council members are scheduled to vote on the annual spending plan when they meet at 7 p.m. today in the Urbana City Building, 400 S. Vine St.

The budget would go into effect when the fiscal year begins July 1, and it includes plans for a flat property-tax rate and an increase in the city's gas tax.

Otherwise, it looks relatively similar to last year's budget.

The city council has already given the green light to Prussing's proposal to raise the gas tax by 1.2 cents per gallon. Drivers currently pay 2.4 cents, and the tax was scheduled to rise to 2.8 cents on July 1.

When she unveiled her budget proposal in May, Prussing said she would like to increase the tax to 4 cents per gallon to match Champaign's surcharge, which went into effect last month. The city council has already approved the increase.

The budget is planned around a flat property-tax rate: $1.3190 per $100 of equalized assessed value.

City officials will continue to hold vacant two jobs — positions for the city attorney and a city planner.

But some salaries will rise, too. A state arbitrator last year awarded the city's police union a 3 percent wage increase, which then extended to fire employees. In May, Prussing said the 3 percent raise will also go to the city's non-union employees.

She defended the non-union pay increases as a matter of fairness. Prussing said Urbana's pay rates are still lower than Champaign's, and the city has to compete with the market for good employees.

In other business, the council could give final approval to a revised deal with the owner of the historic Lincoln Hotel.

The new agreement would make available to owner Xiao Jin Yuan $400,000 that would have been held back until after he re-opened the hotel. City officials are assisting Yuan with the renovation of the local landmark, and the new agreement would require him to open its doors to customers by the end of the year.

City officials have already reimbursed Yuan $650,000 for renovations costs. By the time the agreement runs out, they will have reimbursed the hotel for as much as $1.45 million.

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