Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

TOP STORY >>Taxes bulk of city revenue

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

County and local taxes make up the bulk of expected income to support Jacksonville in 2007, and salaries make up the bulk of expenses. The city council last week approved a record $19.9 million budget for next year, including $15.56 million for the general fund which is used to operate most city departments, a $2.13 million street fund, a $1.49 million sanitation fund, and a $813,331 emergency medical services fund.

According to the 62-page budget presented to the council by Mayor Tommy Swaim, Jacksonville expects $6 million in its share of county taxes in 2007, up about $300,000 from this year; $3.45 million in city taxes, up about $50,000 from this year, and about $1.2 million in other tax revenue, up about $50,000, for the general fund. Overall, 68.5 percent of the expected revenue for the general fund will come from sales tax. The city also expected to generate almost 4 percent of its revenue for the general fund from fines, which equates to about $600,000.

Salaries and wages chew up half of the projected revenue for 2007, and that’s going into the year with three top positions un-filled—city administrator, human resource director and city engineer. The salary budget is up about $250,000 from this year and includes about a 3.5 percent salary in-crease for most city employees. Health insurance, even with all employees projected to pay part of the cost, still takes 10 percent of the general fund’s revenue.

Retirement contribution and benefit payments are also 10 percent of the general fund’s budget and contractual services take another 18 percent. Public safety, which includes police and fire, spends 64 percent of the city’s general fund revenues, followed by public works at 22 percent, general government at 10 percent and the judicial department at four percent. Jacksonville’s street fund gets 66 percent of its $2.13 million in revenue from its share of the state’s gasoline tax and another 14 percent of its income from its share off the county road tax. The fund is split pretty evenly between salary costs and capital outlay (work projects). Salaries and other personal services expend 40 percent of the revenue, while actual street projects and equipment to do the work takes up 38 percent of the budget.

Most of the sanitation fund’s income comes from fees customers pay for garbage and trash collection. These fees bring in about 92 percent of the fund’s income. The rest comes from interest, grants and other collected fees. The sanitation budget is spent mostly on salaries and employee benefits at 49 percent, followed by landfill fees at 16 percent. Nearly all of the emergency services fund’s income comes from ambulance service billings and ambulance memberships. Nearly 75 percent of the budget is chewed up by salaries and employees benefits.

As part of the city’s overall budget presentation, its capital improvement plan is also included. More than $16 million is long-term capital projects and activities have been identified, planned and projected by city officials. They included a joint education center and a police and fire training facility, both being paid for by a one-cent sales tax that also funded the city’s aquatic park, Splash Zone, which just completed its second season.
The city’s $5 million portion of the funding necessary for the$14.4 million joint education center—a community college facility to be used by both the military and civilians—has been met and the military funding portion has approved by the House and Senate. It is currently in the Appropriation Committee.

The police and fire training facility, which carries about a $3 million price tag, is in the planning stages. Enough of the tax should be collected by April 2007 to fund the project, which officials describe as a state-of-the-art training facility for use by the city’s police and fire departments as well as those from neighboring committees.

Other capital improvement plans listed in the budget report include:
•Slightly more than $300,000 for commercial and industrial development. Funding comes from sales of the old Franklin electric property, which was donated, to the city for $1 for the express purpose of using the profits for commercial and industrial development.

•Plans for a fifth fire station, one on the west side of town, probably on Main Street, east of Bayou Meto, will cost $500,000.

• Expansion of Fire Station No. 3, on John Harden, built in 1978 to house two firefighters, the code at that time. But current staffing standards require three firefighters on duty at all times. At 600-square feet, the station has reached its capacity, according to fire Chief John Vanderhoof. The planned expansion will cost $200,000.

•The city also plans to spend $150,000 to build a pavilion on the land that will house the city’s new $2.5 million library. City officials feel the area is the right spot to build a central community pavilion.

•The city will also spend another $100,000 turning an alleyway behind the new library into a proper roadway with curbs and gutters to allow better access to the new library.

•Once the library is built, the city plans to spend $250,000 to spruce up Main Street with trees, shrubs and sidewalks, mainly from Second Street to Dupree.

•The city plans to widen Graham Road from Loop to Oak Street at a cost of $1 million.

•Plans are also on tap to widen west Main Street to four lanes from Redmond Road to Harris Road at a cost to the city of $1.5 million.

•A proposed traffic light at Main Street and Harris Road would cost $75,000.

•Two major drainage projects are also on the blocks. A $100,000 project to aid in drainage control from Braden to Hill streets, and a $20,000 to help prevent continual flooding of five properties in the Fox Glen area.