The Jacksonville City audit came back clean with no findings last night. Adam Withee of Zumbahlen, Eyth, Surratt, Foote, and Flynn says that the city has a 9 to 9 and a half month cushion in the general fund balance, which is what is recommended for municipalities.
Withee says the city has some extra cash on hand to pay for current and upcoming capital improvement projects. Withee says that the city’s revenue’s are flat minus new COVID-19 relief.
Mayor Andy Ezard says he was surprised to hear the optimistic forecast on the city’s money matters: “We all know how tricky last year was, and we really didn’t know where we’d be. Some things were down, some things were up, some things we thought would be down were up; but the main things is that all of us collectively, the aldermen, the department heads, and our employees have done a good job of spending and we’ve hit those challenges. We got a good, clean audit report. We are all very happy about that. Obviously, next year presents a whole different challenge because it’s part of the Covid process, but we were happy to anticipate in having 9-9 1/2 months in our reserves.”
Ezard noted the recent flash flooding and tornadoes in the state as a good reason why the city maintains their reserves. He says the city also has been lean on capital improvement projects over the past year to continue to fight COVID problems. Ezard says the city’s department heads have helped with deciding which projects are a priority: “They come to us with the priorities if they help [something] needs to be done right away. We can tackle alot of those [capital projects] now knowing that we’ve got a good, clean audit. We can move forward, and with the council – we have a new council – and we are going to slowly learn what their priorities are and what they would like done. I think it was a good presentation by Adam Withee.”
Withee told the council that both police and fire pension stand at about 50% funded at the current time. He says that the current investment in the plan increased approximately $10 million due to increased performance in the market over the last year. He says the city still has about $20-21 million in each fund that is currently the unfunded liability.
Ezard says that the current property tax levy funds that go into the liability appears favorable to moving that unfunded amount downward: “I think we are in a good position, but our property tax levy money goes toward the pensions and we’ve kept it down the last 3 or 4 years. All of that money is to the pension. There is no extra money that the city has been using because we understand the impact on folks with property tax. I think we are really going down a good path with our pension obligations. I think we are in a good position. We are meeting the criteria that is set out by the state. Our pension boards are very happy with the direction the city is going with funding the [police and fire] pensions.”
Withee noted that the city currently holds no outside debt and that soft revenues through license fees, golf course usage, and miscellaneous revenue was actually up better than 2019. Withee says that some of the extra fund balances will start to draw down in the coming months as the city pays on road projects and the I3 broadband project.