Ardis: 'It's D-Day'

DeWayne Bartels
Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis says he and the city council are going to make the cuts needed to bring the $10 million city deficit under control.

Peoria government is in for a major shake-up and citizens may well see significant cuts in services, Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said July 24.

Ardis told the editorial board of the Peoria Times-Observer there is a “perfect storm” of circumstances lined up to allow for radical change.

Something has to give with a $10 million municipal deficit looming next year, he said. Ardis added he believes the current city council will get it done.

‘Perfect storm’

Ardis said three things constitute this “perfect storm.”

He said there are no spring elections looming, the economy is very bad, and the city manager is not in a position to worry about losing his job if things get worse (because the current city manger Henry Holling is an interim choice).

“The council has to be strong, and I believe it will be,” Ardis said.

Ardis said this year is pivotal for re-structuring city government.

“We have been whittling away at the deficit every year.”

But, the city council has been dealing with cost increases of 7 to 11 percent annually, largely from personnel costs.

“We are at a point where we have to right size or add a significant amount of revenue,” Ardis said. 

“It’s hard to make changes. People want more and more services, and not pay anymore in taxes,” Ardis said. “It’s hard as an elected official to say, ‘no.’”

But, “no” is exactly what Ardis said the council is going to have to say.

Ardis said the council is at a point fiscally, where it has to cut back. The council is currently considering a wide array of potential cuts and revenue enhancements.

“It’s D-Day,” Ardis said.

Ardis said while many might view the budget situation as a fiscal disaster, he views it as an opportunity.

Ardis pointed to the “radical” changes Caterpillar made, laying off thousands when it became apparent the economy was going south.

“With the changes Cat implemented they will be back very fast when the economy comes back,” Ardis said. “It didn’t take them a week to react when they saw what was coming. We now have a perfect storm of circumstances to make these same kind of decisions.”

What will it look like?

Ardis was asked what city government would look like next year if the council does take advantage of this opportunity to downsize.

“I don’t believe the average citizen will see a huge difference. But, we will be doing less,” Ardis said. “There will be some aspects of quality-of-life issues we will not be able to address. In a budget like this, almost everything is a luxury.”

 Ardis said he is enthusiastic about this situation because it provides an opportunity to downsize government that has been talked about for years without much action.

 “It’s D-Day ...” Ardis said. “There’s going to be some pain.”