Peoria County Administrator, nine year veteran Patrick Urich, is quoted in today's JS, Terry Bibo's column,"the county has been rigorous about making sure the money is there for both the museum and the new BelWood." Bibo says "he pretty much has to say that, but he is no fiscal Pollyanna. That full list of "priorities" is daunting." Urich continues, "Are we a community growing enough to support it? That's where the census comes in." (Last estimated cost to the taxpayer for the census is, $60,000,000,000.00)
Urich continues "the most important thing to look at in this list of priorities is the amount of private investment. Peoria looks relatively good, with the potential to go further."
I'm probably looking at different balance sheet than the one our County Administrator is looking at. (But then, I had to meet a payroll for 28 years without the benefit of collecting taxes, I paid them.) Making sure the money is there for both the museum and the nursing home? The cost of new nursing home will be from $51 million to a recent statement from Administrator Urich "in the low $40 millions".
According to Mr. Urich, we have approximately property tax collected $4-5 million on hand. The rest will need to be borrowed. The nursing home, which collects $3 million plus and rising in property taxes yearly will have a long term cost of approximately $80 million.
As for the museum? It's been so long in trying to raise money from the private sector, that the $77 million museum (even without all the missing pieces, ask me) and garage, when built, that the public has forgotten it will be funded with 70% tax-payer dollars and is projected to lose $500,000 a year, has a tiny endowment, some of the endowment money it is alleged was lost in bad investments, and turned to the county for financial help as a last resort. Asking first for $24 million, then $34.7 million and now $40 million, all from sales tax dollars.
In May 2009, county administration was asking the board for $190,000 in funding for new signage, probably because so many of the public were asking how to find the 2nd floor. By a 9-8 vote, the new signs were voted down.
In March, 2010,for the last 7 out of 8 years, (I was successful in stopping it for one year) we are having the same well-paid consultant, a man Mr. Urich met when he worked for Lake County, come to Wildlife Prairie Park to enjoy food and spend 8 hours helping us sort out our priorities. Most board members attend the meeting full time, some half days and some not at all.
With a down economy in 2002, the County froze all but emergency out of state travel for that year. No such ban since then. In 2009, we sent three board members and Mr. Urich to D.C., including one first term member. (In my nine+ years on the board, I and one other board member plus Mr. Urich, went to D.C., my only tax-payer paid trip out of state).
Both the City, County and #150 loves consultants. The City had a respected consulting firm come to Peoria to forecast results of a larger 100,000+ sq. ft. of museum. Then mayor Ransburg did not like the results because the consultants said the museum would not draw a lot of new visitors with open pocket books and said most residents in the Peoria area would be more likely to go to a sporting event than visit a museum. That respected firms report was relegated to the scrap heap.
Not too long ago, we had a highly respected consultant come to town to tell us we had more than adequate highway access. Something quickly dis-regarded by the Journal Star, all politicians and the M & S's.
Well, I'm getting tired of calling attention to what I call "Wake up, Peoria". I fear it is too late. I'm always optimistic that I could be wrong but I read a lot of history. But I do commend all the effort expended. I do project that some in the community are "waking up too late" to see how much these efforts are going to cost in the future. Many of those that have already awoke are going or are on their way out of this soon to be more heavily taxed areas. But, admittedly, those areas to relocate are harder to find these days. We live in a tax and spend society but with less and less money to spend, we owe foreigners too much interest on their loans to us, we may, don't count on it, be forced to spend much less in the public sectors.