Leader Blues

Monday, December 08, 2008

TOP STORY > > Jacksonville workers to get 5 percent pay hikes in ’09

Every Jacksonville city employee will receive a 5 percent raise in 2009 except the mayor; he’ll only get a 1 percent raise.
Those raises, along with $250,000 earmarked to buy up to 10 new police vehicles and $285,000 to replace the fire department’s 1983 pumper truck, have helped push next year’s budget to $19.2 million.
“At a recent Metro-plan meeting, most city leaders said they couldn’t afford to give employees raises next year, and in those cities where raises were planned, 3 percent was the highest I heard,” said Alderman Kenny Elliot.
One of those cities giving a 3 percent raise is Sherwood.
Alderman Gary Fletcher attributed the ability to give a 5 percent raise to the city’s conservative budgeting over the years.
Even for 2009, city finance director Paul Mushrush has budgeted the city’s gasoline expense at slightly more than $3 per gallon.
“I heard a report today that we could see gasoline close to a dollar a gallon early next year,” Mushrush said, “but I tend to think if that happens it won’t be for long.” He said he’d be happy if he overbudgeted fuel costs. “We could end up with an extra $100,000.”
The approved general-fund budget of $19.2 million includes $12.5 million for public safety (police, fire, 911 communications and animal control), $4.4 million for public works, $1.9 million for general government and $500,000 for the judicial department.
The 2009 budget is about $1.5 million more than this year’s budget.
The council also approved a $2.7 million street-fund budget for 2009, a $1.7 million sanitation-fund budget and $957,548 for the 2009 emergency medical services fund.
In other council business:
n Aldermen approved a request from the Reed’s Bridge Historical Society to contribute $15,000 to the organization for paying off land notes on recent purchases that expand the Civil War park located of South Hwy. 161. Tommy Dupree, with the historical group, told the council that his family has donated 38 acres of easement to the park.
He added that the portion of Bayou Meto that runs through the battlefield site has been designated as an Arkansas Water Trail under a program sponsored by the state Game and Fish Commission.
n In his monthly report, public works director Jim Oakley said the animal shelter took in 79 dogs and 47 cats in November. Animal control officers were able to return 19 dogs and five cats to their owners, while adopting out 30 dogs and eight cats. The shelter euthanized 67 dogs and 51 cats during the month.
The animal-control department also received four animal-bite reports: Two were stray cats being handled by animal control employees; one was a Boston terrier mix which, fighting with another dog, bit the owner who was trying to separate the dogs; and a rat terrier on a chain who bit a girl playing in the yard who got too close.
n City planner Chip McCully, in his monthly report to the council, said his department issued 15 building permits and seven business licenses during November. More than 125 inspections were made and 83 warning letters regarding unsightly or trashy property were issued.
n The council approved spending $19,500 for a new leaf vacuum to replace the one that broke earlier this year.
n The council set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 18 at city hall to discuss abandoning and vacating the street easement on Chapel Hill Road.