Council should put priority on paying down debt

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

To scale down the late Sen. Everett Dirksen's lament, a million here, a million there, and pretty soon, it adds up to real money.

That's the case in the City of McCook's budget, now undergoing consideration by the City Council.

While the total proposed budget has increased 14.68 percent from last year, to $25.7 million, the general fund has been cut by 7.37 percent, and that's a good sign.

The budget adds another half-million dollars to the half-million set aside last year for a new facility to include public safety center and city offices.

As city editor Lorri Sughroue reports today, however, there's a good chance the city could be awarded a $3.2 million grant to build the new facility.

Let's hope so.

If the city does win the grant -- and even if it doesn't -- we urge the council to give serious consideration to paying down more of the debt on the new water treatment plant.

Both the new fire station and paying down the water treatment debt were listed as uses for the additional half-cent city sales tax voters approved in 2007, so either use is legitimate.

Voters did turn down a combined city-county facility, however, and as complicated as that proposal was politically, we doubt there would be objections to holding the line on water and sewer bills in McCook.

Paying down the debt would put the city in less of a dilemma when it comes to water use, that of being caught in a spiral of diminishing returns as higher rates encourage water customers to cut the consumption the city needs to make its budget.

No, there's nothing flashy about paying down debt, nothing an architect or engineer can point to with pride.

But anything that puts a local government in better fiscal shape can help it weather the next economic storm.

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