Jacksonville aldermen approved what was described as a slight increase in water-sewer rates last night.
Utilities superintendent of administration Sally Long said the department’s budget will increase by $32,000 from last year. She said department heads tried to increase the budget as little as possible.
City Council officially kicked off the 2016 budget process by approving the 2016 Utility Department budget, which, along with the rate increase, is effective January 1st.
The minimum bill will increase to $34.78, which is a hike of 21 cents. The average user of 5,000 gallons will see an increase of 90 cents. For users of 10,000 gallons, they’ll see an increase of $2.05, $20,000 gallons, $4.35, and 130,000-gallon users will see an increase of nearly 30 dollars.
Alderman Bill Scott, who filled in for Mayor Andy Ezard last night as mayor pro-tem, offered his thoughts on the increase.
“I have concern for our senior citizens. It’s not much of an increase, but they will see a very minute, less than 25-cent increase, on their water bill,” says Scott.
In other budget news, City Clerk Skip Bradshaw said discussion on a tax levy will take place at a Finance Committee meeting, but he brought up the most recent levy increase of five percent. Bradshaw says some departments have brought in their budget requests.
While Bradshaw said capital improvement requests were needed in the next few weeks, one department brought their idea to the table last night. Director of Community Development and Recreational Facilities Kelly Hall proposed a new toy to replace the existing one at Community Park.
Hall explained there’s $25,000 in the Parks and Lakes capital improvement budget for a new toy, and that the Jacksonville Elks Club will match that amount to allow city officials to go out for a more expensive toy.
“$25,000, as everyone knows, doesn’t go very far when you’re purchasing this type of equipment. The reason I went to the Jacksonville Elks Lodge is because they have a wonderful youth activities program, and I thought they might be interested,” says Hall.
“A full handicap-access toy at Community Park is one of the things that keeps coming up as mentioned on the new ‘want’ list that the Parks and Lakes Committee is assembling.”
Hall said by next year, the Kiwanis toy will probably be the only one in the park.
“The old big toy has served the community very well, but we’re worried about some safety aspects. We don’t want any child hurt,” he says. “So, this will be a new asset to the existing Kiwanis toy that’s already there.”
Hall added he’d like to form a small committee next spring to have input about the placement of the toy. He said if the city wants to, add-ons can be attached to the toy after it’s set up.
In other action, aldermen approved a sewer and emergency water service agreement with the Village of South Jacksonville.