The Carbondale City Council managed to achieve something the state has failed to do for the past two years — pass a balanced budget.
On Tuesday, the City Council approved the Fiscal Year 2018 operating budget of $59,157,156. City Manager Gary Williams said the budget included a modest surplus of $8,287. The new fiscal year starts Monday, May 1 and runs through April 30, 2018.
Additionally, the city passed a resolution approving the five-year community investment program for fiscal year 2018 through 2022 for $59,977,431, which includes projects the city plans on funding throughout the next five years. Also, the Carbondale Public Library annual operating budget was approved in the amount of $1,132,447, and the city approved a pay increase for non-bargaining unit employees starting in FY2018.
While the city was able to pass the budget with a surplus, council members were aware of the financial environment throughout the state.
“It is probably one of most ‘iffy’ environments the city has gone through in several years. It was an environment were many things were beyond the city’s control,” Councilman LeeFronabarger said “With the mess in the state, and with SIU having to cut another $30 million beyond the $21 million that was cut last year, I think we need to keep very, very close watch over this budget month-by-month.”
During council comments, Mayor Mike Henry reiterated the sentiments of several residents throughout the state, saying the state needs a full budget. He asked residents to continue to share their frustrations with legislators. He reminded residents that universities in Illinois have watched their credit rating drop to just above junk bonds, and some have dipped to junk-bond status — all because there is no faith in the state agreeing to a budget.
“This is a horrible way to run a government. It is disrespectful and unmindful to our citizens and a lot of people are suffering,” Henry said. “There is no excuse. Absolutely no excuse.”
Additionally, the mayor talked about transportation cuts proposed in President Donald Trump’s spending plan, which would reduce — and possibly cut — some Amtrak services used by SIU students and residents on a regular basis.
“We rely on this affordable transportation to go back and forth,” Henry said. “We also need connections to the south. It’s not just Carbondale. Many, many people ride the train to Memphis or New Orleans for the weekend.”
At the end of the meeting, Henry said the council and its residents need to put the city first.
“Carbondale’s at a turning point,” he said. “We really don’t want (SIU) enrollment to drop further — it is probably going to drop again this fall. We need to think of everything possible to make Carbondale a place where people want to bring their young folks and leave them in our care for four years or five years or six years.”
One other thing of note was this was Councilman Fronabarger’s final council meeting. He lost to former Carbondale City Manager and Executive Director of the Jackson Growth Alliance Jeff Doherty in the April election. Fronabarger thanked the residents of Carbondale for the past six years on council. Doherty will assume this seat on council Tuesday.