Drought helps cash-strapped city cut some costs
JOHNSTON CITY, Ill. — One silver lining to the brown grass caused by the drought in our area is that there's really no need to cut it anymore. That comes in handy when your city is trying to climb out of a huge budget hole.
Last year about this time the money problems in Johnston City were just coming to light. The city was more than $1 million in debt.
It was so bad that banks seized the city's accounts, so they couldn't make payroll.
Earlier this year, leaders thought they'd have to turn control of the city over to the state of Illinois.
But after eliminating the fire department and making other public safety cuts, the city trimmed nearly $300,000 so they could stay operational.
The mayor said the dry weather is also helping them cut costs. There isn't as much grass to cut.
"The drought is awful but we were able to save money," said Mayor Jim Mitchell.
Mitchell said the warm winter and dry summer are keeping labor costs to a minimum.
Every cent counts when you're trying to build back a budget.
"We've got to make that up and get the town on its feet," said Mitchell.
The city is leaner now. A handful of employees quit last year.
The once full-time fire department is all volunteer with the exception of the chief.
Police patrols got cut back, too. That department was almost eliminated.
"The only thing that will help the town is an influx of money, having businesses that pay sales tax," said Mitchell.
Mitchell said he and other leaders can't trim any more spending. They're hoping to bring new businesses to Johnston City somehow. It could be the only solution.
"We've cut about everything we can cut," Mitchell said. "We're going to try and get some more money coming in."
The city is using its police department to bring in new revenue. Officers now sit at the Johnson City exit on Interstate 57 checking for speeders.