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Murphysboro City Council reacts to Jackson Growth Alliance funding request

Murphysboro City Alderman Gary McComb (second from left) talks to Brad Fager, (whose head is pictured in the foreground), during a June city council meeting. Also pictured are new board member Jance Curry Witzman, Sandra Ripley, deputy city clerk and Mayor Will Stephens (far right).

MURPHYSBORO — Murphysboro City Council members are eyeing next year's budget, looking to see where they might be able to make up a shortfall of more than $20,000 in the General Fund.

One area they're looking at is the city's water rates, which could see some sort of increase in the new proposed spending plan. The Murphysboro City Council members discussed the budget at their Nov. 21 Budget and Finance Committee meeting.

The city will have to approve the 2018 budget before year's end, after it undergoes a public viewing and public hearing. At the meeting, the mayor indicated the council would have to approve the final draft by Dec. 19.

For fiscal year 2017, the city approved general fund of $4,962,511 in revenues and $4,939,383 in expenditures.

Scott Evans, the city's budget officer, gave the council an overview of how the city's water rates might be impacted.

This past year, the city had leaking water pipes repaired, leading it to realize significant savings on its bills from Kinkaid Reeds Creek Conservancy District, he said.

However, he said that savings — about $150,000 less paid out to the water district — had the net effect of creating an increase in city property owners' water bills, he said.

The city gets its water from the Kinkaid Reeds Creek Conservancy District; the water district also supplies water to De Soto, Campbell Hill, Elkville, Gorham and Willisville villages; the city of Ava; the Murdale, Elverado and Oraville water districts; and a small portion of south Washington County; and the state's Department of Natural Resources' Paul Ice Recreation Area and the Kinkaid Village Marina on Lake Kinkaid.

A representative of the water district said the entity has considered water rate hikes over the previous year; its last one was seven years ago, in 2010, she said.

This year, the board did authorize an across-the-board increase of 12.9 percent — an addition of 30 cents more per 1,000 gallons of water used, she said.

The Council took no action on any of the options as its continues working on a proposed new budget.

Council members also discussed other ways of finding money — including possibly increasing various licensing fees, such as those covering establishments that make and sell alcohol or sell cigarettes or gas, while staying in line with surrounding communities. That's an option on which Mayor Will Stephens expressed hesitation.

"I don’t want us to get in the habit of every year, kind of going back to these licensing fees as an ATM to sort of pad our budget deficits," Stephens said. "I think that certainly these could be looked at …

"I don’t think any of these are overly unreasonable. I just don’t want to go to this well too often,” he said.

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Stephanie Esters is a reporter covering Jackson and Union counties.

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