Sunday, February 15, 2009

Community Reality Check

On 10/12/05, the JSEB wrote on the Editorial page "Fund Raising Fears Up" and Jennifer Davis of the JS wrote that "only $20 million of the $65 million had been raised to date". Then Mayor Grieves said "the federal government is tapped out. It's going to have to come from private individuals". Then Congressman Ray LaHood, said "it may take three to five years to raise the money". These were remarks made at the leveling of the old Sears Building to make way for the new museum.

The JSEB Editorial ended with this prophetic statement, "We will need to know more in 2006, but at some point, a financially reality check may be in order".

Almost four years later, private funding appears to have ground to a halt. Many pledges, I suspect, are just that, "suspect". The fund raising baton has been passed to what appears to be an eager County Board and Administration who strongly supported our politicians in Springfield who legislated and won the right to put new public facilities on referendums. The Museum Committee has committed over $626,000 to promote a project that would be eagerly funded with largely "private donations" Sure, and they don't even have an endowment anywhere close to the $9-13 million need to help fund operations forever. While the missing gap of $34 million,(actual cost with interest on the borrowed money, $61-$68 million) can only come with the approval of a referendum, the county has capped the amount that will go to the museum at $40 million dollars. Capped by this board at this time.

Museum Committee member and Methodist Hospital Chief, Michael Bryant was quoted by DeWayne Bartels on 9/10/08, "$66 of the $78 million in needed private funding has been raised". Really. Then why the referendum for $34 million?? I guess we'll have to see what the delayed Lakeview Museum 2007 Financial Statements show when they are made available for public scrutiny. Next week, I've been told.

Two months later,construction on Methodist Hospital expansion was halted. CEO Bryant is quoted as saying "on the advise of our investment bankers and others , we just think it is prudent to say 'Let's move it back to the original timetable and let's watch and see what happens'. We're just deferring this project until a better economy exists."

At the same time Mr. Bryant is gung-ho to go on the "more taxes for public spending" of $86 million dollars, give or take a few million, depending on whether construction materials and labor costs will have gone up. All union labor on the project, you know.

Reality? On January 10, 2009 the JS reported that "empty building tell the story of our economy on Peoria" but it was only 240 days ago the media was reporting a job growth of 24% for Peoria. Now every day, someone is being laid off and the "employers seeking help" section in the JS has shrunk from 8 pages a couple of years ago to 3 pages today. More than half of the jobs offered in the mostly lower paying health services.

Again I say "wake up, Peoria and Caterpillar's Jim Owens". Now is not the time to be building community amenities (of which we have an abundance, some incomplete, like the zoo), and do not put $61-68 million more new taxes on our citizens. Plus who is going to make up the scheduled operating yearly deficit? And how much is in the needed $9-$13 million Endowment Fund to help make up the revenue deficit?

More taxes are coming anyway, from all areas, local, state and federal.

And soon.


Diane Vespa said...

Merle, it is only going to get worse. Many people feel that they just made a $7,500 charitable contribution when the spendulus bill was passed.

Merle Widmer said...

I again overlooked the Peoria Public Library $27 million bond.
The city has none of this $27 million so it is all borrowed money meaning the actual cost to the property tax payers will be approximately $54 to 558 million.

Nice legacy we are leaving younger people when Lakeview Library is dumping books in their dumpster and digital age is approaching more rapidly each month.