Leader Blues

Monday, December 21, 2009

TOP STORY >> Next year’s budget set over $19M by council

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Without much fanfare, but with a stern warning, the Jacksonville city council unanimously approved, on Thursday, a $19.07 million budget for 2010.

Before the final passage, Alderman Terry Sansing warned, “I still want everyone with their hands out to know that this budget is $251,000 less than last year. It’s a good, balanced budget and I’m not willing to cut out anything for anyone with their hands out.”

Even though Jacksonville’s 2010 proposed budget is a quarter-of-a-million dollars less than this year’s budget, the mayor called it a good one. “We are doing as much or more with it than last year’s. I’m very optimistic.”

Within the 2010 budget of $19.07 million, the city’s fire department takes the biggest hit. The department budget drops from $4.7 million to $4.1 million while the police department will see a slight increase from $6.58 million to $6.71 million.

Overall, the budget for public safety drops about $440,000 from $12.48 million to $12.04 million. But the budgets for city hall, the judicial sector and public works will all see slight increases.

The cost of salaries and benefits increases about $350,000, most of that to cover 3-percent pay increase for employees and $36,000 in higher insurance costs.

City Finance Director Paul Mushrush is banking on a flat year and has projected tax collections to remain about the same. The county sales tax is projected to bring in the same in 2010 as it will this year, $6.39 million. The city tax collections are projected to move up just a bit, going from $5.7 million to $5.9 million. Even though Jacksonville’s general budget is down, the city’s street, sanitation and emergency medical services funds will see increases.

The street budget will go from $2.7 million to $2.95 million. The sanitation fund will go from $1.66 million to $1.71 million and the emergency medical services budget will go from $958,000 to $1.05 million.

The mayor told the council that he appreciated the efforts of all the department heads. “We had to keep going back and cutting and cutting. But it’s a good budget and it’s a balanced budget,” Fletcher said.

In other council business:

• Aldermen approved adding an additional $25 to the cost of traffic and criminal warrants and orders. The $25 covers administrative fees and costs. A new state law allows cities to tack on the additional fee to help defray costs. The new fee will start Jan. 1, 2010.
The council agreed to the rezoning of 216 N. James St. from C-2 (light commercial) to R-0 (single-family residential). Aldermen also approved rezoning 905 S. Oak St. from C-4 (heavy commercial) and R-2 (multi-family residential) to C-2 (light commercial). The council also approved the final plat of the Brewer Commercial Park, Tract A.

• Fire Chief John Vanderhoof, in his monthly report, told the council that the fire department responded to 117 rescue calls, 50 still alarms, 20 general alarms and had 256 ambulance runs during November. Estimated fire loss for the month was placed at $3,000, and fire savings was estimated at $451,000.

• In his monthly report, Police Chief Gary Sipes said his department responded to 3,167 complaint calls in November. During the month the police made 269 adult arrests and 35 juvenile arrests.

The chief told the council that the motto for the department in the coming year was “lock up and stuff them for 2010.” He said in an effort to clean up the city, the department wants everyone to look out for each other. He added that the department was working hard at holding down burglaries.
• Jim Oakley, the public works director, in his monthly report, said the animal shelter took in 109 dogs and 81 cats during November. Shelter officials were able to return 36 dogs and two cats to owners and adopted out 51 dogs and 22 cats. But 24 dogs and 56 cats still had to be euthanized.

The mayor made an appeal at the council meeting for anyone thinking of a pet for Christmas to please visit the shelter first.

During November, six bite cases were reported. The animals involved included a Lab, a boxer, a Chihuahua, a kitten, a Lab mix and an Australian shepherd. The boxer was declared vicious and dangerous.

• In his monthly report, City Engineer Jay Whisker said the city issued 18 building permits and nine business licenses during November. The engineering department performed 155 inspections during the month and 68 residents or business owners were cited for having trashy yards or structure problems. Also 22 vehicles were tagged for noncompliance with city ordinances and three were towed.

• The council approved a number of changes to the city’s health and safety manual including a policy that states employees may not text message while driving and banned smoking in any city vehicle.