Cape's budget nears final approval

Saturday, June 7, 2003

The Cape Girardeau City Council is poised to pass a $45 million budget on June 16 that is 8.54 percent higher than last year's budget.

Some taxpayers might wonder how that's possible, particularly with the city finance director saying he expects an increase in the general fund revenue of only about 1 percent.

Here's the answer: Most of the increased spending is found in the capital improvements portion of the proposed budget. The city has been accumulating revenue from the transportation sales tax for some big projects. Now the city has the money, and those projects are scheduled for the coming budget year. This is all part of the Transportation Trust Fund promise to only use the sales-tax revenue as it provides enough money to complete the next projects on a priority list.

Several such projects are going on now, including the widening of William Street from Sprigg to downtown and the realignment at the intersection of William and Sprigg streets. There's also the highly visible Mount Auburn Road widening from Independence Street to William Street.

The proposed budget also would require dipping into the city's reserves.

City employees won't be getting raises, and neither will employees of Alliance Water Resources, which runs the city's water system. Originally, the city had budgeted more for its contract with Alliance, which planned to give small pay increases. But Alliance changed its mind about the pay increases. This will be the third year of no pay increases for city employees.

The city's budget issues would affect residents too.

The residential trash fee would increase 2.88 percent. The charge for city water and user fees at the Cape Jaycee Municipal Golf Course would increase by 5 percent. While these are relatively minor increases, they are upsetting to some residents nonetheless.

The city finance director, John Richbourg, said higher fees are needed to offset increased costs for water and trash services and the operation of the golf course.

The average residential utility bill would increase by $1.26 a month, while commercial businesses would see an average increase of $3.64 a month.

That means a resident who pays a monthly utility bill for sewer, water and trash services of $41.51 would pay $42.77 if the council approves the increase. A business with a current city utility bill of $116.66 a month would end up paying $120.30 monthly with the fee increase.

At the golf course, greens fees would rise to $9.92 weekdays and $12.13 on weekends and holidays, a 47-cent and 58-cent increase respectively.

Family season passes at the golf course for the elderly and individual passes would cost $385.88, an $18.38 increase. Family passes would cost $523.69, a $24.94 increase. Individual passes for the elderly would increase $11.81 to $248.06.

No one bothered to comment about any of the proposed increases or the budget in general at the public hearing held this week.

That is not unusual. People typically wait to complain until they see the increases in their bills.

Residents shouldn't be surprised if the council passes these increases, which city officials say simply must occur in these financially challenging times.

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