Jacksonville Daily Progress
Members of the Jacksonville Council continued to tweak and retool their 2013-2014 city fiscal year budget numbers Tuesday in the hope that city employees might be able to get a well-deserved raise.
The council's budget total will probably end up being about $14 million, although city council members caution that number could be revised in either direction by the time they take a final vote in September.
“We just want to work it out where the employees can at least get an increase for the cost of living,” explained Jacksonville District 2 Councilman Jeff Smith. “Otherwise, everything on the budget is looking good. It doesn't appear we're going to have to go up on taxes.”
The council will continue reviewing numbers and data through at least one more budget workshop session, which will be held in about three weeks. No part of the proposed measure has been formally submitted or approved at this point.
After the workshop process is completed, a public hearing will be held, followed by a formal vote and passage around September, City Manager Mo Raissi said.
Jacksonville Mayor Kenneth Melvin said he is very confident the council can hold the tax rate “as is” – at .62 per $100 valuation.
“That is the plan,” the mayor said. “Currently, we haven't received our final numbers for the employee health insurance – and there was a hefty increase associated with that. But hopefully we won't have to raise taxes. It's possible our sales tax and our water and sewer service sales will bring in some extra revenue.”
The council has already met twice in three-hour sessions to comb over numbers, Raissi said. The city manager said the emphasis of the council is on preserving the current tax rate while also upgrading and improving certain needed capital projects.
Raissi said he also believes the numbers will fall close to last year's budget, but – as the others said – no one will know for sure until everything is thoroughly reviewed.
“We're looking at what we did last year and trying to stay in that range to preserve this year's tax rate,” Raissi said. “But, there are lot of things the city needs right now.”
Mayor Pro Tem Billy McDonald and District 1 Councilman Hubert Robinson could not immediately be reached by phone during the day Tuesday to comment on the issue. But District 4 Councilwoman Ann Chandler said the numbers seem well-balanced and she is optimistic the tax rate from last year can be preserved.
“I really think this is going to be a good budget year,” Chandler said. “I trust Mo completely on this.”
Raissi said there are various proposed additions to the budget, a lot of them capital improvements toward which city council members are leaning.
These proposals include but are not limited to:
• Two new police vehicles, two 1982 Tahoes, which could cost a possible $82,450 for both.
• Certain library renovations, proposed at around $20,000.
• Street department overlay, proposed at $250,000.
• Utility asphalt cuts, proposed at $45,000.
• Two regular trucks, proposed at at $16,600 apiece.
• A dump truck, proposed at $80,000.
• A new ambulance proposed at $118,000.
• Eleven sets of bunker gear for the fire department – proposed at $20,000.
• New fire hose for the fire department – proposed at $5,600
• Oxygen for the fire department's ambulance – proposed at $500,000.
• Hand held scanners for the city's police department – proposed at $6,000; and:
• Two city computers proposed at $4,500, reports show.