Tight budget in Fort Madison means cuts to organizations

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The city of Fort Madison is dealing with budget issues and had to make some tough decisions at a meeting Monday night.

The North Lee County Historical Society, Fort Madison Area Arts Association, and Main Street all rely on city funding to operate.

The city denied their funding request because the money is tight and if things don’t change in the general funds, more cuts to city employees could happen.

After a three hour tourism commission meeting, everyone is upset.

“How do you go from not being bad to being in the black, I don’t understand,” Riggs said.

Brian Riggs with Fort Madison Area Arts Association said the city’s funding is their second source of revenue at $14,000.

Not getting that money would be a big blow.

“Yeah, substantial amount of revenue for us,” Riggs said. “If that occurs, certainly we would have to look at what stays and what goes.”

The key is the hotel/motel tax.

City officials said the city has lost 20 percent from last year, that’s around $38,000 in revenue. But they don’t know why.

“It’s really hard to tell or put a finger on it,” City Manager David Varley said. “It’s been all over the place the last several years.”

Varley believes that the trend can change.

“I think in the future, there will be funds available again,” Varley said. “I think right now, we are in a short time frame, we were giving away quite a bit and I think we need to realize that maybe we can’t.”

The North Lee County Historical Society was one of those groups that received funding.

Director Andy Andrews said the money helps bring families from out of town.

“People come here to watch the trains and the tourism dollars would mean a lot to the future of our town,” Andrews said.

But it’s not only tourism dollars. If this trend continues in the general fund, cuts to manpower may be in store.

“It could be a point where we might have to look at that, we hope not,” Varley said. “But we are also trying to maintain our streets and our roads and we try to put money in there so we don’t fall behind. It’s hard to keep both going at the same time.”

The tourism commission will meet in the coming months to provide an update on any budget concerns.

The city said it must have a finalized budget in April next year and tough decisions will have to be made.

Don Dwyer

Don Dwyer

Don Dwyer is a Morning Anchor/Reporter at WGEM.

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