SIKESTON - While the proposed PILOT amendment was soundly rejected by voters Feb. 4, the city's problem remains: "We've got a budget shortfall," said Mayor Phil Boyer.
City Council members joined the Board of Municipal Utilities at their regular meeting Tuesday to discuss the city's projected $450,000-shortfall for the upcoming budget year.
Boyer said the increases in insurance premiums and a fully-staffed Department of Public Safety have made it necessary to find additional revenue, suggesting a 3-percent payment in lieu of taxes be imposed on just retail customers.
City officials are already looking at trimming at least $200,000 from the budget, but it won't be from the police department. "We're not going to cut our services in public safety," Boyer predicted. However, he later noted that "it will actually be another council that passes the budget."
In addition to trimming the city budget, Boyer said he believes major capital improvement programs will have to be postponed and the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority will be out of luck as well. "We're not going to have that in our budget," he said. "I know they need some money."
"I think its good that we're having this dialogue," said Steve Forbis, BMU chairman. He asked if city officials will also be seeking input from the citizens.
"We're sure not," said Boyer. "We're going to balance our budget...They put their voice in when they go to the polls (at election time)."
Boyer added the budget process always includes a public hearing as well.
City Manager Doug Friend noted the city has been holding back on hiring some employees in anticipation of the revenue shortfall.
BMU member Joe Blanton said he "would be very inclined to publicly support" a plan which reduced retail rates and add a surcharge so there would not be any increase in the total bill for customers while creating a steady stream of revenue for the city.
The board's concern was with imposing a PILOT on the wholesale contract cities. "That was our major problem with the (former PILOT) proposal," Blanton said.
BMU members suggested putting the matter before the voters, but Boyer said the council does not have to. "At least it's what we've been told," he said.
Steve Sikes said, however, that the BMU was never intended to be a source of revenue for the city. "It was set up to keep our rates low," he said.
"Well, I think we're in extraordinary times, Steve," Boyer answered.
"We haven't had one in 16 years," said Ed Throop, BMU's general manager, regarding rate increases. "But I'm going to try to go another 10 years."