The Jacksonville City Council accepted the first reading of their tax levy last night for the upcoming year. Based upon recommendations from the finance committee, the council accepted the first reading for a 2.5% levy increase next year. Ward 5 Alderman Don Cook explains that the majority of the tax levy for next year will go towards covering the costs of municipal fire and police pensions. “The state has now passed legislation that combines all of the fire and police pensions from downstate, and they are going to start handling those. We are kind of in a position right now that we have no idea what next year is going to be like or how it is going to impact the tax levy or the pension fund itself because we don’t know what the administrative costs or going to be.”
Cook says that it’s a lower increase than the previous two years: “We no wiggle room there with the 2.5% increase covering the pensions. We have nothing left over and if we start going below that, it will have impact on the general fund and it will cut back on all the other services. It’s 2.5%. Last year it was at 3.5%. It’s an increase but not nearly as much as it was last year and the previous year, which I believe was 3%. By law, we can go up to 5% and there are some entities that are proposing the 5% increase. They are going to the max, but we’re not.”
With the council “breaking even” with their budget, Cook says that major capital improvement projects and other expenditures not in the budget will have to wait. City Clerk Skip Bradshaw is expected to have the city budget to the council by December 1st prior to the next reading of the tax levy that occurs on December 9th.