Leader Blues

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

TOP STORY > >Jacksonville workers to get pay raises

Leader staff writer

On Thursday, the Jacksonville City Council will put the finishing touches on an $18.6 million general operating budget for 2009, about 4 percent more than the current budget.

The council will also discuss buying a half-an-acre of land for the Reedís Bridge Historical Society. The price of that land, $57,000, sparked controversy at a council meeting last month.

The meeting will start at 7 p.m. at city hall.

The proposed 2009 general fund budget includes a pay raise for city employees (the mayor will announce the exact percentage at the meeting), the purchase of up to 10 police cars and the purchase of a $285,000 fire truck pumper.

Aldermen have spent the last two weeks reviewing the 31-page budget proposal which not only allocates $18.6 million for the general fund, but also $2.7 million for the street fund, up about $700,000 from this year; $1.3 million for the sanitation fund, up about $20,000, and $1 million, up about $90,000, for the medical emergency services fund.

Close to two-thirds, or 62.8 percent, of the expected revenue for the $18.6 million general fund, is projected to come in through sales taxes, followed by intergovernmental funds at 10.8 percent, operating transfers at 6.2 percent, utility franchise fees at 5.8 percent, revered fund balance will make up 3.5 percent of the revenue, 3.5 percent will come from charges for services, fines at 3 percent, property taxes at 2.3 percent and other sources will provide 2.1 percent of the income.

Most of the expense for the city, 64 percent, will be to fund public safetyópolice, fire, the 911 communications center and animal shelter, followed by public works at 23 percent, general government expenses at 10 percent and the judicial branch needs 3 percent of the revenue.

In all areas, salaries and wages will swallow up about half the cityís revenue, at 46.6 percent, contractual services will cost 17.7 percent, retirement contributions will take up 11.4 percent of the budget, capital outlay at 8.7 percent, health insurance at 7.8 percent, supplies and materials at 4.2 percent and other benefits eat up the remaining 3.7 percent of the budget.

The request to buy the half-acre site and 1,430-square-foot house off Hwy. 161 for expansion of the Reedís Bridge Battlefield Site came up at the Nov. 6 council meeting and the suggested price stirred up enough controversy to have any decision tabled.

Alderman Bob Stroud asked for a show of hands from members of the city council that had visited and viewed the property. A number had and all agreed with Stroud that it was rundown and in very poor shape, yet the owner was asking $57,000 for the property. Stroud said the city didnít have the luxury of throwing money away like that.

The city has helped the historical society make land purchases before, but in the past the council felt the asking price was reasonable. This time it didnít.

Tommy Dupree, with the society, said that in 2004 the society, which maintains the battlefield site, had appraisals performed on several properties that they were interested in trying to acquire and the property owners were interested in selling.

He related that the bulk of those properties have been purchased, saying that this is the last appraisal of the ones performed in 2004. Dupree said that the 2004 appraisal of this property was $32,000.

But the owner said that was too low and got his own appraisal of $57,000.

Stroud called the property a pig in a poke and buying it for that amount would be foolish. In fact, Stroud was disappointed that the property is not on the condemnation list.

He said that while he supports the concept of Dupreeís group, he does not feel that this is a reasonable price given the poor condition of the property.