By Devese “Dee” Ursery, Reporter
The bi-monthly meeting of the Collinsville City Council on Tuesday kicked off with the retirement ceremony for a 20-year veteran of the Collinsville Police Department.
Jose Cerna retired on Nov. 3, after a long career as a police officer for the city. He started his career as an officer for the Fairmont City and Granite City Police Departments prior to joining Collinsville. During his tenure, Cerna served as a K-9 handler with his long-time partner, Jas.
He also held positions as an ILEAS Mobile Field Force Operator, field training officer, DEA Task Force Officer, detective, and member of the Major Case Squad and Child Death Investigations Task Force.
Collinsville Police Chief Steve Evans said that Cerna was an exceptional officer and exceeded at every opportunity presented to him.
“He’s done everything you can do here and he’s excelled at every single thing,” Evans said. “More important to me and one of the reasons it’s hard for me to watch him go is he’s just a good person.”
Cerena will now be serving as a deputy for the Madison County’s Sheriff’s Department.
In other news from the meeting, Mayor John Miller proclaimed Nov. 14-20, National Apprenticeship Week.
The week is in celebration of its eighth year of raising awareness of the necessary role registered apprenticeships provide in creating opportunities by allowing apprentices to earn while they learn – creating a pathway to good, quality jobs and well-paying careers.
“The main thing we try to do is work with the municipalities to do proclamations,” Tony Fuhrmann, director of employment and training in Madison County said. ”Last year between events and proclamations, Illinois was one of the top five states in the country.”
Fuhrmann spoke of upcoming events, both on state and local levels, tailored toward the marginalized and underserved.
On the state level, there are a number of events happening across Illinois. For instance, various trade unions will have events for National Apprenticeship Week, where they recognize their apprentices and recruit new individuals into their programs.
“We talk a lot about diversity, equality, and inclusion,” Fuhrmann said. “These programs are very much including people that historically, have not been included in the employment process.”
On the Apprenticeship Illinois website, there will be a series of webinars from Nov. 14-18, every morning from 9-10 a.m. Participants can register and then access the webinars from the website. The webinars will provide a different subject everyday of the series.
At the local level, the Gateway Center will host a Southwestern Illinois Apprenticeship Roundtable from 9 a.m. to noon, on Nov. 15. There will also be a panel of employees explaining their apprenticeship programs and how it has helped their businesses.
There will be another panel that involves the cities of Collinsville and Highland discussing a couple of programs that involve individuals with disabilities. The program in Collinsville is for the youth and the Highland program is geared toward adults with disabilities.
The final panel will be a discussion and introduce on the new $5.8 million grant for the St. Louis region from the Department of Labor to grow apprenticeship programs in healthcare, bio-science, and education, according to Fuhrmann.
Dustin Ziebold, finance director, discussed at length the 2023 budget assumptions for Collinsville. The budget was presented with the assumption that the City’s Home Rule status would be kept, which was the case, election results on Tuesday would show.
If a vote to retain home rule occurs the property tax impacts to residents and property owners is projected to decrease. This would be made possible through a combination of three factors: The City’s low reliance of property taxes in funding services, the City’s low municipal property tax levy, and the expiration of tax increment financing No. 1.
According to Ziebold’s report, since the City is not requesting additional revenues from property taxes for the General Fund and still meeting the requirement for funding both the police and fire pensions, residents and property owners will see a reduced rate and subsequent lower taxes.
The City is currently revamping its capital improvement plan with the goal of having a 10-year plan available for planning purposes for all city departments.
The plan will allow management and staff to work annually to put aside excess revenues into a segregated fund with the sole purpose of funding large infrastructure, equipment, and facility management projects.
The goal of this fund is to limit the amount of funding that is needed from borrowing to accomplish future projects, while at the same time providing timely upgrades to facilities, infrastructure, and equipment to ensure the best experience for both citizens and visitors, according to Ziebold.
This approach will allow for a more efficient transitioning to a 10-year CIP plan from a six-year CIP for a more strategic approach for future projects. Also the creation of the “Capital To Be Assigned” account allows the Unassigned Fund Balance (UFA) and other funds to accumulate and then be assigned to the appropriate project, which allows for a more strategic approach to funding projects while considering grant funds and other offsetting revenue sources.
The UFA of various city funds represents unspent revenues from prior years that is currently sitting in the City treasury. Staff is proposing that the Council utilize a portion of the UFA balance in the 2023 Budget to fund capital projects to ensure the continuance of commitment to infrastructure restoration, maintenance, and creation to facilitate providing both residents and visitors the best quality of life and experiences possible.
It is projected that by applying a portion of UFA balance toward capital projects, the City will save substantial money due to the reduced need to borrow funds to finance capital projects needed to ensure updated infrastructure and other city needs.
The 2023 Budget contains several debt service payments.The City is taking an aggressive approach to paying down its outstanding long-term liabilities in a timely fashion. In the Budget there are three different debt services in the amount of $433,372 that will be paid in full. With the payoff of these bonds, it will open up revenues within the hospitality fund to be used for additional capital funding for Parks and Recreation and the Gateway Center areas.
“If there are opportunities to eliminate debt whether it be at whole or in part, I’m gonna take advantage of those opportunities,” City Manager Mitch Bair said. “Interest money, typically on bonds, is paid to somebody that is not from Collinsville, probably not from Illinois. Some big city investor is making that money, not our citizens.”