Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

September 17, 2013

Jacksonville passes 2014 budget

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — After months of number crunching and exacting deliberation, the Jacksonville City Council last week passed a $14,345,117 budget for fiscal year 2013-2014.

This new budget provides employees with a 2 percent raise, allows for needed cost increases in health insurance and holds the tax rate “as is.”

“We are very happy with this budget,” City Manager Mo Raissi explained Monday. “It is very lean and – I think – meets all the necessary criteria to take care of the city's needs.”

This new budget marks a $441,697 increase from last year's 2012-2013 budget of $13,903,420. But it also preserves the previous year's effective tax rate of .62 per $100 valuation, city records show.

As far as city employee raises, the 2 percent allotted in the budget last week would, for instance, provide a city employee with a  $20,000 salary with an additional, annual $400, Raissi elaborated.

In terms of health insurance, city council members had to make two major changes for the next fiscal year – the first being a 10 percent health insurance increase effective from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, records show.

The second change takes place Jan. 1 – adding an additional 3.5 percent to that 10 percent and morphing the entire amount to an additional 13.5 percent for health insurance costs over the last nine months of the fiscal year.

What that translates to, budget-wise, is an additional $78,000 budgetary cost for that first three months.

This amount will increase to an additional $105,000 for the nine months starting Jan. 1, city officials said.

Jacksonville Mayor Kenneth Melvin said the most difficult part of putting together this year's budget was effectively dealing with the health insurance increases.

“But we did deal with that – without increasing the tax rate,” the mayor said. “We made some  adjustments and transferred some funds from our water and sewer account into the general account. I think it will work out fine.”

As far as the 2 percent raises are concerned, the mayor said he wishes city employees could have received more for all their hard work.

“But I think they (city employees) all understand – their supervisors explained to them how much the health insurance is costing the city,” Melvin said.

Other budget items passed last week  include:

• Two new police vehicles – 2014 Tahoes – costing  a total of $82,450.

•  Library renovations costing roughly $20,000.  

• Street department overlay, $200,000; ongoing repair and maintenance, $95,000.

• A dump truck, $88,000.

• A new ambulance, $118,000.

• Eleven sets of bunker gear for the fire department, $20,000.

• New fire hose for the fire department, $5,600

• Oxygen for the fire department's ambulance, $4,500.

• Three hand-held scanners for the city's police department, $6,000.

• Two city computers, $4,500, reports show. And:

• A utility budget of $120,000, a portion of which is for sewer replacement.