By STEVE BAUER
URBANA — Watching a vulnerable city budget, increasing city efforts to improve both fiscal and environmental sustainability and continuing efforts to improve public safety will be among the top issues confronting Urbana the coming year.
Mayor Laurel Prussing said, “Historically, Urbana residents have been innovators who looked to the future.”
One issue for the future will involve Urbana’s partnership with the University of Illinois and Champaign to develop a broadband fiber optic network thanks to a $22.5 million federal grant.
Other key issues include:
— The budget. Urbana managed to put together a balanced $48 million budget for fiscal 2011, which began July 1, without layoffs or a hiring freeze, unlike many local governments. But the city plans to transfer $6 million from reserve funds and its cash reserves are expected to drop to $14.2 million — down from $20.2 million for fiscal 2010 and from $26.6 million for fiscal 2009.
Estimated revenue of $42 million will be supplemented by reserve funds to balance the budget. The proposed budget estimates total spending of $48.4 million, up 0.7 percent from the current year.
— The downtown. Council members directed staff to redesign traffic lanes, creating a center “buffer” lane that would also serve as a bike lane on Main Street, with lanes each for east and west bound traffic.
— Sustainability. The city will continue to work in improving sustainability, to design the city to minimize use of energy and water and reduce environmental emissions.
Prussing said the city must continue to grow to remain financially viable, but growth should be “smart growth, not just growth for the sake of growth.”
Urbana is working on annexations north of the city near U.S. 45 and Airport Road. It is also working on design and engineering for extending Olympian Drive from Champaign to Lincoln Avenue.
— Public safety. Serious crime dropped 25 percent during Prussing´s first term as mayor and for 2009 total crimes reported in Urbana dropped to 4,717 — the lowest in 20 years. Prussing said public safety will remain a key priority.
“That underlies everything,” she said. “We´ve had significant progress on crime reduction, and we can´t let up. Government has to do its basic function, which is public safety.”
Urbana operates under the mayor-aldermanic form of government, of which the mayor is the chief executive. The mayor presides at city council meetings and is responsible for seeing that all laws and ordinances are executed.
The mayor appoints all city department heads on an annual basis, and acts as liquor commissioner.
Urbana´s mayor has veto power over city ordinances. It takes five of seven aldermen to override a veto.
The mayor only votes when there is a tie vote on the city council, or where a vote requires a supermajority (six of eight votes) for an annexation agreement, a budget amendment or a sale of city real estate.
Aldermen are elected from seven wards, and the mayor and city clerk are elected citywide. All city officials run for office in the same election. The next election is in 2013.
City council members
Mayor (liquor commissioner):
Laurel Lunt Prussing (D)
2106 Grange Drive
Home: 344-5078; office: 384-2456
Ward 1: Charlie Smyth (D)
805 S. Coler Ave.
Ward 2: David Gehrig (D)
304 W. Elm St. No. 5
Ward 3: Robert E. Lewis (D)
803 N. Goodwin Ave.
Ward 4: Brandon C. Bowersox (D)
506 W. Florida Ave.
Ward 5: Dennis P. Roberts (D)
507 E. Green St.
Ward 6: Heather D. Stevenson (R)
413 Beringer Circle
Ward 7: Diane W. Marlin (D)
2203 Boudreau Circle