A debate about the future of the Carbondale city budget began during the discussion of the purchase of a new backhoe at the regular city council meeting on Tuesday.
A purchase proposal was submitted to the council asking that it award the purchase of a new backhoe for the Street Maintenance Department to replace a currently inoperable one.
The backhoe that will be replaced has previously had mechanical issues, which have totaled over $66,000 to repair.
The new backhoe will cost the city over $91,000.
The money for the purchase will be pulled from the general fund and added to the 2016 fiscal year budget.
Councilman Adam Loos pulled the proposal for consideration because of concerns about what this unforeseen cost means for the future of the budget.
Loos said he is worried about possible overspending being added to the issues currently facing the budget.
“We don’t want to spend down the general fund balance over the course of five years to where we can’t operate,” he said
Other issues currently dealing with the budget are the sequestration of funds from the state in the motor fuel tax area and gaming, and a possible sales tax increase involving an enrollment drop at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
“I don’t doubt that we need the backhoe, and I don’t doubt that it’s money well spent,” Loos said, “But it seems to me that we’re in a pinch.”
City Manager Kevin Baity replied to Loos’s concerns, saying that staff is very comfortable using the general fund to purchase this backhoe and that the purchase should not affect the projected budget surplus for the end of the fiscal year.
.Jane Adams, former councilwoman, also expressed concerns about major cost overruns, citing the new downtown parking lot as an example.
“There was $177,000 that was taken out of the reserve fund for the parking lot because the actual cost was more than twice what had been budgeted,” she said.
She said that with the addition of the backhoe purchase, that makes over a quarter of a million unbudgeted dollars coming out of the reserve.
“I do hope that you take all these issues into consideration,” she said, “I hope you have an opportunity as council to really dig into the budget in very near term so that you don’t run up against budget deadlines.”
Despite financial concerns, the purchase of the backhoe was approved by the council.