Monday, January 26, 2009

A Message to the County Board and the Voting Public

As you cast your vote tomorrow evening please consider these facts: Quoting from the Peoria Area Needs Assessment published by the Heart of Illinois United Way, "Over the past 7 years Illinois has experienced a population growth rate of 3.2% while the Peoria region has experienced a growth rate of only 1.2%. Median income in Illinois rose by 3.5% from 2005 t0 2006, while the Peoria area Median income fell by 1.0%."

Caterpillar announced today a reduction by 25,000 of their workforce and a reduction in anticipated gross sales from $51 billion to $40 billion for 2009. Caterpillar stock is down by approximately 60% in the past 18 months, closing at around $32 today.

The City of Peoria is backing a local developer with the guarantee of roughly $40 million in General Obligation Bonds on a hotel expansion downtown to support the Civic Center. Should the hotel not "pan" out as planned, the city (taxpayers) in the City of Peoria would be on the "hook" to pay off the General Obligation Bonds. On 1/23/09,(JS),the Civic Center announced a $350,000 reduction in their 2009 budget while laying off 5 full time employees and a temporary 401(k) suspension for 54 full-time employees, cuts in travel and entertainment and a freeze on capital expenditures. Utilities costs have risen to 23% of the Center's operating budget.

Cub's Food on Knoxville recently announced their closing leaving the city (taxpayers) liable for approximately $5 1/2 million should a new occupant not be found.

Also the new Bellwood Nursing Home or renovation of from $24 million to $33 million (actually $49 million to $67 million adding interest on the bonds), will start showing up somewhere down the line after the county board approves the expenditure which all indications are, they will.

The Peoria Public Library $27 million (actually closer to $54 million adding interest), bond payments will start showing up on your tax bills shortly. As will the $31 million in new expenditures for Illinois Central College facility construction start showing up on your property tax bills in the future. ICC needs to keep up with the Joneses, (Heartland College) both colleges using taxpayer taken without referendums.

The Peoria Park District failed to raise enough private investment for the zoo expansion, cutting the $32 million expansion to $27 million and sending out a plea for $5 million more to complete the project now delayed by more than nine months.

The Peoria Playhouse, slated to remodel existing the PPD Headquarters for $5.5 million (once the PPD moves to the newly remodeled old IDOT Building on Knoxville, and then on to Lakeview Museum once the new museum is built?, has announced that they are only approximately 50% funded. The Playhouse announced on 10/08/04 in the JS that they plan to open in 2007??

On 9/04, the JS wrote that Bradley University announced a land swap, "PPD gets 80 acres in exchange for Meinen Field" now Shea Soccer Stadium, for land on the corner of Rt. 9 and Fox Road on which the PPD was to build a large sports Complex. Five years later this land is still farmland and still owned by Bradley University. Why was this swap never completed and sports complex built? The PPD says there are not not enough funds in their budgets and grant money didn't come through.

The Greater Sanitary District will require $100-300 million in capital expenditures starting no later than 2010. Higher rates and/or higher taxes.

The infrastructure of our water lines are close to disaster and costs to replace may run as high as $100 million. Higher water rates can be anticipated.

Peoria Public School District #150 has started a massive construction, possibly over $100 million. Construction is now underway building the new Glen Oak School costing $27 million. The first substantial yearly bond payment will come due in 2012 for $4 million a year for at least 20 years. Expect about the same for the new $23 million Harrison School now or soon underway.

On 9/16,08, the JS reported that this school district had a surplus in their budget yet four months later, the budget showed a $9.2 deficit, (JS, 1/16/09).Now, the district is talking about building one new high school and closing Peoria High (maybe a vocational school in this building) and closing Woodruff High School.

On 10/24/07, the JS reported that the once highly touted city owned Gateway Building was up for sale. "The city loses money on the Gateway, paying nearly $400,000 annually on the debt that was issued to build it. Plus approximately $175,000 in annual operating costs".

On 3/21/99, (JS)then Mayor Bud Grieves wrote that the city had not contributed "one cent to the the building of a downtown ballpark". After being taken to the "cleaners" by Eagle Cleaners, $1.6 million of the $3 million Eagle purchase coming from the city; the city wound up investing a minimum of $5 million in the new ballpark. (always take statements like the one Grieves usually makes, with a "grain of salt' as my dad used to say. To date, the ballpark has never returned "one thin dime on my $50,000 investment in this ball club. My stock has been for sale since 2003. No offers. But I'm expecting one from possibly Andy Rand and Jim Dillon as soon as the new museum gets built. (just kidding, Andy and Jim)

O'Brien Automotive did not renew their naming rights to the building this year. At the present time, the ballpark is unnamed.

One Technolgy Plaza Building was built and wired to attract new tech businesses in Peoria. That failed, and a try is being made again at the Peoria Next Innovation Center on Main. Third floor is empty except when Cat uses it occassionally.

And, of course, the RiverPlex, hanging like a yoke around the neck of the PPD. Despite projecting that revenues would cover principal and interest on the bonds, the PPD has only being able twice to make small payments on it's yearly $850,000 bond borrowed to build the facility. Only to take that away by charging equal amounts to the PPD regular funds for RiverPlex "operating cost".

Since approximately 2001, over $400 million in public funds have been spent on the riverfront. It is still not a desire able riverfront to most Peorians and a new Cat Visitors Center and Museum, costing taxpayers over between $73-80 million; this figure derived from the 20 year bonds adding up to $61-68 million paid by people buying and still a tax that must be paid by buyers, from the adding the land the City (taxpayers)gave the project; $6-8 million according to mayor Ardis, approximately $6 million already collected in state and federal grants including $500,000 from NASA and the $800,000-1,000,000 collected by Ray LaHood through the highway and transportation bill for the parking garage (JS 5/27/05), not counting the cities action as reported int the JS on 4/08/06,of lifting the cap on TIF funding for the museum.

Failures on the sowntown riverfront, include In-Play and RiverStation, both bankrupt, a souvenir shop closed and Damon's left town to name the most prominent. Residential construction has been relatively quiet yet to build a vibrant downtown, all studies show you need residents who live there.

If you take the amount promised by Caterpillar and public monies already collected, still leaving a shortage of $34 million or more (a $6 to 8 million endowment doesn't appear to be in this figure?), the $35 million in private funds seems to be fairly short of this private generosity anticipated.

The original proposal submitted to the County Board anticipated $12 million from the Federal Government (taxpayers money), $12 million from the State of Illinois, $6 million from Peoria County, (actually our administrator made and error and the amount is $600,000 of which $300,000 has already been set aside in a special fund, $35 million in private funding, making a total for the museum only of $65 million. The size of the museum was later reduced from 110,000 sq. ft. to 81,000 sq. ft. leaving some Historical Society members perplexed as to how they were going to get the 35,000 sq. ft. originally anticipated.

Part one of two.


Chase Ingersoll said...

Merle: after all that, I don't know that I can take part II. Oh wait...I don't live in Peoria anymore so it's not going to affect me any more than a good horror movie with never ending sequels.

Really, Illinois has quite the entertainment industry, with the comedy series: the Guvernor - Arrested Development. I see he was pitching the series on The View yesterday.

So by all means hit the lights and pass the popcorn.

Slurp. Slurp. Chomp. Chomp.

C. J. Summers said...

Great post, Merle. You hit the nail on the head.

Jimi said...

A super post laying it all out. Thanks for giving us a lot of the major numbers to add up and chew on - unbelievable.