By: Diane Benjamin
One of the first actions by the new Council installed May 1st should be reviewing actions taken by previous Council that staff is still implementing. The biggest one is building the underpass. Previous Councils have voted to investigate and possibly design, but not to build it. Since the Town has a $13 million grant hanging I’m sure they are anxious to use it. Building new always comes before taking care of what is already built.
You might be interested in this document the Town sent to Union Pacific Railway for approval. Read the very last page. The Town is acting like this is a done deal without the Council ever saying it is.
If you haven’t watched the short video on the Town website about the underpass, watch it now. Total cost is 22.6 million. Normal is $9.6 million short right now. http://www.normaluptownconnector.org/
All of the above is background for the real story. The below is from the video of the all day budget meeting at 55:30. The graph is for a fund named vehicle replacement, but this money isn’t used for replacing vehicles. They are parking money here so the General Fund only shows the required 15% in reserves. Parking money here for future use makes it look like the Town isn’t saving more money than it needs to operate. It is like you having two savings accounts, one you never spend below some level and another one for surprise projects.
Note: The red line is what the fund was established to reserve, the Town is WAY over that amount.
One of things staff threw around frequently was paying off $8 million of debt 14 months from now. Keep in mind when they had the chance to pay off $2 million a few weeks ago they refused to do it. It’s not like they didn’t have the stash to do it.
The budget does not show $8,000,000 being paid anywhere. I was going to posts a couple different charts to prove that, but this story is becoming cumbersome.
You can search the budget for yourself: https://normal.org/DocumentCenter/View/18048/Proposed-Budget-2021—2026
Since paying off the promised $8 million in debt is not mentioned in the 5 year budget, that alone is reason to vote against it. They claim it will happen but it is not in the written plan. Ask your representatives to prove the stash is for debt, what they say is meaningless. (We’ve seen that game before!)
The parking of money, continuing to do work on the underpass, and the $13 million grant makes me think the parked money will be used for the underpass – either directly or with a new bond when one is paid off.
Those running for office know citizens are concerned about the massive debt. They also know those same citizens would not support spending reserves for an underpass. Think what I stated is a stretch in an election year?
The discussion of the Vehicle Replacement fund starts below: