Excerpts from the pjstar.com:

After many comments, complaints, and dire warnings, members of the Peoria City Council voted 7-4 in a non-binding, advisory vote that approved the cuts to the police and fire departments as city hall tries to claw its way out of a $6 million budget shortfall.

During the four plus hour-long special meeting, council members spent hours discussing and debating ways to plug holes without crippling day to day operations. Cutting 22 firefighter positions and taking $1.1 million out of the police budget would have a definite impact, said the chiefs of both departments.

Fire Chief Ed Olehy said that adjustments that have been proposed would place Peoria’s fire department at its lowest staff in 30 years and mean longer response times for citizens in the southern valley, downtown, and the Bradley University area. He said that computer studies indicate a two-minute difference in travel time without Engine 2. Fire safety and educational programs will be reduced and insurance costs are likely to increase if the cuts are approved.

Interim Police Chief Loren Marion III said a police force that currently has 212 employees would have 205 at the end of the year. Fewer tickets will be issued, fewer seizures of drugs and contraband, and a longer wait for officers to reach an accident site would result.

That 7-4 vote wasn’t the final vote and there are several hours of discussion and debate left before the final vote occurs later this year. Still, the vote did signal where some stood.

Revenue recommendations that were previously approved in an advisory vote included a public safety pension fee that would place a $50 fee on property owners of under 5,000 square feet and $300 for properties of over 5,000 square feet. That measure, if formally approved, would raise an estimated $2.2 million. A 2 percent package liquor tax would raise $700,000 and EMS billing by the fire department would raise an estimated $200,000.

The city manager said that the city has been cutting other departments in recent years and sparing public safety positions. “We can no longer afford to do that. Public safety costs (police and fire pensions) are growing faster than anything else in the budget,” he said.

thanks Dennis