Friday, October 08, 2010

TOP STORY > >Smaller budget in 2011

By Rick kron

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville’s 2011 budget will be smaller than this year’s. That was the word aldermen received Thursday night from the city’s finance director.

“It will be a tight budget,” Paul Mushrush said at the council meeting. “But there are no plans to cut services or raise taxes.”

However, there may not be much in the budget for employee raises.

“We may have to give a small set amount rather than a percentage,” said Director of Administration Jim Durham after the meeting.

Mushrush applauded the city’s conservative budgeting over the past few years, but the lack of revenue has been worse than expected. “But we are still much better than many surrounding communities that are cutting services to make ends meet.”

“We plan well and don’t knee jerk,” he said.

Bringing in about four new square miles of property through annexation in November will help, but Mushrush said he has to develop the budget based on money he knows will be available.

The area the city is looking to annex, according to finance reports, generates about $10 million in business revenue, which would equate to about $1.9 million in added revenue for the city.

Mushrush said at the beginning of the year the city had $14 million of projects on the books, with about $10.5 million of those funded.

“We now have $19.2 million worth of projects, including some from earlier this year that have gone up in price. I just found out today that the Graham Road widening project has increased by $684,000,” he lamented.

Mushrush said the city has set aside $3.43 million for the joint fire and police training facility located off Marshall Road, $915,000 for the Graham Road project, $282,000 for engineering studies for Emma, Oneida and West Main Street intersections and extensions, another $659,000 for actual construction on those roadway projects, $400,000 for renovations to the 911 center, $400,000 for a police/fire substation (more than likely in the annexed area), $358,000 set aside for economic development projects and $350,000 for renovation to the police building.

The city has also budgeted for or already spent $233,800 on the demolition and removal of Manor House Apartments and $150,000 for a roundabout at the Main Street and Harris Road intersection.

Mayor Gary Fletcher says current plans call for building a new 911 center and police building on the new training grounds rather than renovating.

He said after a visit to Conway to look at their police complex, “iIt was like they were CSI and we were Marshal Dillon. It’s not a question of keeping up with the Joneses,” the mayor explained, “but I don’t want to see us lose a case after the hard work of the police because we didn’t have the proper facilities to maintain DNA or other evidence needed for the case.”

He said residents will get the same overview from the finance director at a town hall meeting at the recreation center at 7 p.m. Thursday.

“Yes, we’ll talk about annexation, but we also want the citizens to see where we are heading and what we have to get us there,” he said.

In other council business:

n Public Works Director Jim Oakley said the animal shelter received 92 dogs and 96 cats during September.

Shelter officials were able to return 14 dogs and six cats to their owners, another 55 dogs and 26 cats were adopted out, but 32 dogs and 73 cats were euthanized.

n City Engineer Jay Whisker, in his monthly report to the council, said his department issued 25 building permits and 10 business licenses for September.

The engineering department performed 176 inspections and wrote 322 warning letters for unkempt or unsafe yards and structures.

The department had 113 properties mowed and trash picked up at another two at a cost of about $9,700.