Cautious positivity may be the best two words to describe the attitudes of Jacksonville city leaders regarding new audit numbers shared last night.
In light of Illinois cities with serious problems with the issue, such as Chicago, new requirements by the state require auditors to be more revealing of municipal pension liabilities.
The audit from Zumbahlen, Eyth, Surratt, Foote and Flynn shows the City of Jacksonville’s firefighter pension has increased from $31,260,444 to just over $32-million from the end of 2014 to the end of last year. For the police pension fund, the number increased about a million dollars from $33,731,528.
But, auditor Adam Withee noted this past year, the city overfunded both police and fire pensions.
“It’s very difficult to explain. The rules have changed as far as accounting reporting, and we knew that coming in, and as far as the audit, with our pensions, it looks really bad on paper, but in the big picture, we continue to overpay each year into our pensions. A lot of communities aren’t in that situation. I think it shows good on the part of our due diligence,” Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard says.
“There’s a lot of variables- some day, the rules could change again- but, I think that we are very cognizant of the pension liability that we have. We’re making the steps to pay more money into it than you should be allowed, so I think we’re in a good position. We’re certainly not out of the woods because it keeps escalating, the pension liability does, and with the demands and discourse of the state, and the rules that they play by, things could change again. However, I think we’re in a decent position of funding our pensions,” he continues.
Withee also noted the city continues to have enough reserve cash to cover a seven-month period, which is close to what’s recommended. General income revenue is up 3.8 percent, while fund expenses are up 1.8 percent.
Also last night, aldermen approved the first reading of two Tax Increment Financing requests. One was for Hamilton’s catering in the amount of $20,000 to pay for elevator repair, while the other was for Sandy’s Clip To Mania, which requested $5,000 for interior building repairs.
Zone changes were passed on a first reading for Rex Battery, the owners of which want to increase the size of signage on the front of their building, and Westfair Baptist Church, which wants to turn a former house it owns into business offices, according to Community Development Director Kelly Hall.
Aldermen got an update from engineers at Benton and Associates on the new water treatment plant on Hardin Avenue in the form of a two-minute time lapse video showing progress of construction. You can watch below: