Aldermen consider cutting summer help as budget talks continue

By Gary Scott on November 11, 2014 at 7:58am

More preliminary budget talks took place at last night’s Jacksonville City Council meeting.

The discussion during a Finance Committee get-together focused several times on summer employment while looking over a draft budget. Alderwoman Marcy Patterson said the city has “a lot” of summer workers and suggested cutting the summer worker budget in half.

The move was suggested as an alternative to cutting full-time personnel, but alderman Mike Wankel opined that personnel is the only way the budget can be trimmed. He said either revenue needs to be raised or expenses need to be cut.

Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard says if aldermen feel there’s too much spent on summer work, that’s something that can be examined along with other line items.

“I think it was just brought up because they saw that we spent a lot of money putting kids and people to work in the summer, and they might want to curb that, but I think it’s good that we do hire college students and high school students and folks that don’t have jobs,” he says.

“I think it’s good that they get employed, and some might argue that, but if we have too many, then that’s something that the department heads are going to get asked by the council.”

Don Cook, in his second year as Finance Committee chairman, informed the rest of the council that as the budget process continues, specific department heads will be called in to talk about their budgets. He says that’s a first.

“Generally, the Finance Committee and the mayor and the city clerk and the city treasurer get together and review the budget before we take it to the Finance Committee itself,” says Cook.

“The aldermen have a lot o questions about specific department budgets, and as I mentioned earlier tonight, I think it’s easier to get department heads together on a one-on-one situation with the Finance Committee and they can propose their questions right to the department heads themselves, and get a clearer answer clearer picture about their budget.”

It was also announced last night that a budgetary change has been made regarding the placement of video gaming revenue.

Ezard says right now, the money- of which there will be about $200-thousand this year- is lumped in with other receipts in the General Fund. Wankel proposed during the last council meeting that the city needs to be specific where that money is placed.

“If we can pinpoint specific projects or things that we’re doing with the gaming money, I think it goes a long way with the general public, and they can understand it’s a good revenue stream for the city, and we hope it continues,” says Ezard.

“It’s just the budgetary item. It’ll be a specific line in the budget where we’ll show when we take money out for certain projects, it’ll show that it came out of a gaming revenues.”

Wankel also asked the mayor last night to be more specific regarding $12-thousand of “miscellaneous” expenses. Ezard indicated he could make it more specific.

Aldermen passed a resolution approving the 2015 Utility Department Budget, effective January 1st. As was reported last month, a minimum bill will go up 49 cents, from $34.29 to $34.78. For a customer that uses 5-thousand gallons, the increase will represent 79 cents more per month.

Also, aldermen passed a resolution authorizing the issuance of a license to America Ambulance for 2015 through 2018 with a roughly three-percent rate increase for service in the city. Patterson said the rates haven’t changed in three years.

Alderwoman Lori Large-Oldenettel wanted the motion tabled until city council got a more specific number and was one of two aldermen to vote against the resolution, with Don Cook being the other. Alderman Tony Williams was not present.