Friday, November 19, 2010

TOP STORY > >City budget would be less in 2011

By rick kron
Leader staff writer

Jacksonville’s proposed 2011 budget is about $100,000 less than this year’s budget but still gives employees a small raise and maintains services, even though the city will have to take a half-million dollars out of its reserves to do it.

“We have nickel and dimed this budget to death,” Finance Director Paul Mushrush said at a half-attended city council meeting Thursday night.

The mayor, along with Jim Durham, director of administration, and Jay Whisker, city engineer, were in Dallas trying to woo business developers to Jacksonville.

Aldermen Kenny Elliott, Bill Howard and John Ferrell were also out.

Mushrush told the council that revenues for 2011 are expected to come in at $18.4 million, while expenditures are expected to reach $18.9 million, leaving a $504,341 shortfall which the city will cover with reserves.

The city will give its employees a flat $500 raise instead of a percentage raise as it has in the past. City council members will not receive a raise.

Mushrush said all city services will stay at their current levels, but added that something needs to be done with sanitation.  He explained that if the city continues without a rate increase or a deduction in garbage and trash services, the department will lose about $1 million over the next five years. The department is already running a deficit of more than $400,000.

The department has not raised its rates in almost a decade and the council formed a committee Thursday to look at what can be done to get the sanitation department back to a break-even point. It might mean a rate increase, a drop in services or a combination. 

Alderman Reedie Ray will head the committee which also includes aldermen Terry Sansing, Bob Stroud, Kevin McCleary and Bill Howard.

“We are the only city that I know of that picks up trash twice a week,” Sansing said at the meeting, implying that he might be in favor of cutting back to once a week.

Part of the budget problems come from the voters rejecting annexation, which would have infused about $1.9 million annually into the city coffers.

Fletcher said shortly after the vote that the people had spoken and that the city will have to make adjustments.

Nearly 67 percent of the expected revenue will come via sales taxes, followed by intergovernmental transfers at 7.8 percent, operating transfers at 6.4 percent and utility franchise fees at 5.9 percent.

The bulk of expenditures will be for public safety at 64 percent of the total budget, followed by public works at 22 percent, general government at 11 percent and judicial at 3 percent.

In other council business:

The council approved the first reading of an ordinance placing a total of $70,895.29 in liens on a total of 139 properties throughout the city. The liens are being placed against the properties because the city had to either cut the grass, clear the properties or perform some other service after the owners would not.

The ordinance must be read and approved two more times before it becomes law and the liens are placed on the properties. The council will call a special meeting before the end of the month to take the other two votes on the ordinance.

The liens range from a low of $37.39 owed by Shayla Johnson of 133 Lonsdale Circle to $10,295.57 owed by Wyman Gaye of 107 and 109 Smart St. Some property owners will have multiple liens against them such as Duane Smith, who owns numerous properties on Jane Drive, will have four liens against him and so will Roy Martin, who owns property on Flight Court.

In his monthly report to the council, Police Chief Gary Sipes said his department responded to 4,209 complaint calls in October.

The police arrested 334 adults and 57 juveniles during the month.

The chief reported that the city had no homicides, five reported rapes or sexual assaults, four robberies, 11 felony assaults, 21 burglaries, 76 thefts, six vehicle thefts and no arsons during October.

Fire Chief John Vanderhoof, in his monthly report, said his department responded to 243 rescue calls, 85 still alarms, 23 general alarms and had 266 ambulance runs.

The chief estimated fire loss to the city for October at $1,000 and fire savings, based on quick responses, at $399,000.

Alderman Marshall Smith, who served as mayor at the council meeting, reminded those attending that city offices would be closed Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving.