Alton Mayor Brant Walker attended a meeting with other mayors earlier this week with Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and he left strong impressions with the governor about his proposed state budget cuts.

The Alton mayor informed Rauner that the proposed reductions would be “devastating” to his city.

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Alton Mayor Brant WalkerWalker said he is extremely disturbed by Gov. Rauner’s proposal to cut the income tax reimbursement portion of the budget, which would amount to a $1.3 million reduction to Alton. Walker said that grants of close to $750,000 to support improvements at Riverview Park and Gordon Moore Park have been put on hold.

Walker said Alton had a balanced budget last year, but if these budget reductions were implemented, it would cause immense problems for public safety and parks areas of the city.

“There were 10 to 12 mayors who met with the governor in Greenville,” he said. “He doesn’t seem to be very realistic about these cuts. I tried to make my opinions heard.”

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Bob Barnhart, the Alton Public Works director, said he is also disappointed in the governor’s plan to put the park grants on hold, especially after the work already done.

The packaged improvements for Gordon Moore Park include $600,000 in state grant funding and a $250,000 Metro East Park and Recreation District grant. The Riverview Park improvements were to be done with the state grant of $150,000 and some other Scenic Byway Grant funding, Barnhart said.

“It is almost wasteful because we have so much time and money in it,” Barnhart said of Rauner’s proposal to put the state grants on hold.  “We hope some of the money is rescued and he rescinds his decision.”

Alton Police Chief Jake Simmons said he anticipates there could be as many as four officers retire this year in a department that is already operating with a lean workforce. Two officers are on light duty and are seeking disability status. He said he was approached by two officers recently who may retire in the next 60 to 90 days. The Alton Police Department has eliminated four officer positions through attrition since 2012.

“Regardless of what will happen as police chief I am committed to the safety of the citizens of Alton and I will try to continue to streamline and make things work in the department,” Simmons said.

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