Poplar Bluff city leaders consider changes to improve finances - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Poplar Bluff city leaders consider changes to improve finances

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) -

In an effort to help get the city of Poplar Bluff out of the red, members of the council are considering charging for services at public events that are currently free.

The potential plan includes imposing a fee for police presence at parades and funeral processions. It also includes charging more for use of city facilities, such as the Coliseum.

"The seating is around 4,200, complete seats, and then during a concert we will have another 800 or 900 on the floor,” Coliseum director Bobby Gidwin said.

Of the biggest buildings in Poplar Bluff, the Coliseum can hold about 5,000 people.

"There will be nearly, I'd say, 3500 or 4000 people come through,” Gidwin said.

This weekend, they're hosting the annual community garage sale, but director Gidwin says the building houses everything from concerts to basketball games.

"A full rental is a $2000 rental at this time,” Gidwin said.

That may sound like a lot of money, but City Administrator Heath Kaplan says that's nothing compared to the financial drain the building is on the city each year.

"The Coliseum loses about $1.5 million every fiscal year."

Kaplan says the city's budget is better than it has been in years past but still has a ways to go. He says without making some changes, the city would likely be completely out of money in about five years.

Charging more for the use of the facility is only part of an idea that Kaplan has to help the city become more financially stable.

"With that, we have to look at everything from providing support at a funeral, support to a parade,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan says, simply put, it's about asking the council to consider if things that are currently free or inexpensive should cost more. Right now, the overtime pay for officers to work events like parades, Kaplan says, is a huge chunk of the budget.

"For the 4th July parade, almost all of our officers are involved in that,” Kaplan said, “That's our entire force."

He says, even though the plan is not final unless the council approves it, it's a step in the right direction.

"Not that we are looking to have a surplus or to make a profit, governments don't make profits, but we have to have reserves in place for rainy days,” Kaplan said.

According to Kaplan, the earliest the new policy could be put into place, would be end of March or early April. 

Again, that's if the council decides to move forward with it.

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