Leader Blues

Friday, August 21, 2009

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville praised for big surplus

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Jacksonville is in great financial shape and even has about $7 million in reserves, according to an independent audit.

Gerald Clark of McAlister and Co. presented the audit of the 2008 budget at the city council meeting Thursday night.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said, “Everyone thinks I’m Santa Claus because we have a surplus.” But he gave all the credit to former Mayor Tommy Swaim for putting the city in such great shape.

Clark told the council that the city’s balance sheet remained strong at the end of 2008 as total assets exceeded total liabilities by $52 million, even though the city’s total assets fell by about $2 million from 2007.

Clark said that in 2008, sales tax revenue was up 4 percent. Sales tax accounted for more than 60 percent of the city’s total revenue for 2008. Property tax collections, as well as franchise taxes, were also up for the year.

The auditor’s report concluded that “despite challenging economic times affecting many cities in Arkansas and across the United States, Jacksonville remains well positioned financially, with a balanced budget, uncommitted reserve balances in excess of $7 million and very minimal debt.”

Clark added that the solid city budget was “the cumulative effect of cost savings and process improvements put in place in 2008 and prior years. We commend the city’s leadership for being fiscally responsible.”

In other council business:

Police Chief Gary Sipes, in his monthly report, told the council that his department responded to 3,181 complaint calls in July and made more than 400 arrests. More than 1,100 accident or incident reports were filed during the month.

The chief also said that there were 20 curfew violations in July, all nighttime violations.

In his monthly report, Fire Chief John Vanderhoof said his department responded to 103 rescue calls, 47 still alarms, 19 general alarms and had 240 ambulance runs in July.

The council approved an ordinance that updated the language needed for the North Pulaski Waterworks Public Facilities Board to operate.

This ordinance is similar to the updating the council did of the city’s public-facilities board last month.

The council also accepted bids of slightly more than $100,000 for sidewalks along Loop Road and curb, gutters and sidewalks on West Valentine Road.