With negotiations in Springfield at a critical point, a group of Illinois mayors is urging legislators and the governor to avoid targeting cities to help balance the budget.

The state collects about $1.2 billion in local revenue annually. The money is supposed to be returned to local governments, where it helps cover costs such as police departments and garbage collection.

In recent years the state has held on to hundreds of millions of dollars to help close a budget gap. The mayors, who were gathered for a quarterly meeting Friday in Chicago, say the money is vital to help fund basic services — and they’re worried the state is considering making the cuts permanent.

“Either we have to cut essential services that our residences rely upon every single day, or we have to figure out ways to raise new revenue, which essentially amounts to a back-door tax increase forced through us on our residents by Springfield,” Downers Grove Mayor Martin Tully said

Tully said his village receives about $4.5 million annually from the state, which is about 10 percent of the operating budget. The money provides funding for the police, fire and public works departments, among others, Tully said.

“The state should balance its own budget in its own way, and not on the backs of municipalities,” Tully said. “And residents who feel likewise should send that strong message to their representatives … .”

On Friday, Gov. Bruce Rauner, talking to reporters after meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda in the city, was asked about the concerns of the Illinois mayors. Rauner didn’t directly answer the question, saying only that budget negotiations are ongoing.

Contributing: AP