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Fulton officials at odds over gambling

FULTON – Fulton city officials have found a way to use revenues generated by the new Illinois Video Gaming Act, but not everyone on the City Council agrees with the new suggestion.

At a council meeting March 3, Alderman Randy Boonstra ignited the conversation by offering a motion to add the tax revenues to the budget line item of building or rebuilding city infrastructure and to the development of city parks.

"To me, it would be good for this income stream to be used for the good of all people in town, and I couldn't think of anything other than parks that everybody uses," Boonstra said.

By offering the motion, Boonstra insisted that the video gambling revenue would be designated to a specific area of need, instead of its current designation into the city's general fund.

If the council decides to approve Boonstra's motion at its March 18 meeting, it would add approximately $30,000 worth of revenue to more than $20,000 already budgeted for parks and infrastructure.

But, City Administrator Ed Cannon warned the council that if the council members "tie [their] hands with the video gaming revenues," they would be unable to use those revenues to fund other projects and may face shortfalls in other areas.

It is because of that mentality that Boonstra made the suggestion – and the motion – in the first place.

"That's exactly why I want this money to go somewhere else," Boonstra said, "because every year you'll find something to spend it on, instead of saying maybe we need to spend a little bit less somewhere."

While some members of the council agreed that the city needs to address its infrastructure and park issues, they did not all agree that using those specific monies was how they would accomplish it.

And some aldermen felt that the video gambling revenue funds would be better served somewhere else all together.

"Like maybe perhaps a senior citizens center, which is in dire need," Alderman Howard Van Zuiden said. "Our parks look pretty good to me."

According to Public Works Director Dan Clark, the city's parks are in dire need as well. He added that the parks and infrastructure line items in his budget are the only ones to zero out at the end of each fiscal year, and that having those additional revenue funds would aid him a great deal.

He also commented that, with the addition of the city's new nature center adjacent to Heritage Canyon, the council will need to consider how it plans to fund that project.

"If you remember we had that discussion, and I said if you ever find any extra money, please consider parks as one place to put it," Clark said. "Because we certainly don't have near enough to go around."

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