Jacksonville Alderman Asking For More Input, Transparency In City’s Appropriations, Budgeting Process

By Benjamin Cox on March 2, 2022 at 10:31am

One Jacksonville Alderman is unhappy with the process of the city’s appropriations and budgeting.

On Monday night the city voted to adopt the 2022 Operating Budget and approved appropriations for fiscal year 2022 in a 7-1 vote. The lone ‘no’ vote was Ward 3 Alderman Kent Hannant.

Hannant says there needs to be more transparency and accountability when it comes to the city’s finances: “I think 10% and almost $5 million and no accountability on the way to spend it is way too much. The percentage of discretionary spending is what I had a problem with. As far as the operating budget, I think the council should be more involved in it then just throwing out a package that we had no say-so in, and then when you ask questions then no one has an answer.”

Hannant was also the main reason why the council tabled a motion to renew an agreement with the county for animal control. Hannant told the council that the county had overcharged the city by about $4200 over the last two years after doing his own independent investigation on the matter. Hannant told the council that the animal control program charges fees based on a municipality’s population. The 2020 federal census revealed that the city’s population had fallen to 17,616 resulting in the alleged overcharge.

Hannant says he had to work hard to find a straight answer on why the city was paying money to the county for animal control in the first place: “The dog pound thing…I was able to do that but it took a lot of leg work just to figure out what [the city] has been doing for the last 10 years and to get people to just give me an answer. The reason it sparked my attention on that is that I had no idea why we were giving money to the dog pound. After I figured out why and why the money was going there and how it was [being spent], then I understood that the fees are changed every ten years, but they overcharged us based on their own intel. Like I told [Mayor] Andy Ezard tonight, I think we should all meet as a group to decide on these decisions with these department heads and find out what they need and where this money is going.”

Hannant also questioned the council’s decisions of the council to purchase lawn mowers and side-by-sides for the Planning & Public Works Department and the Utility Department. Hannant voted unanimously with the council approving a new lawn mower for the City Hall & Plaza Maintenance Department from Henry Service for $11,919 and another lawn mower for the Wastewater Treatment Plant for $10,419. Hannant wants to know why the city doesn’t have a replacement program for equipment: “Why are we spending $50,000 on side-by-sides and not replacing other worn out side-by-sides? It’s frivolous spending, and [the council] had no say-so in it. They just lump it in a budget and nobody even knows what they are voting on.”

Hannant says he’s getting conflicting stories about other city spending and he’d like the council to have more input. He says he’d like to have notice for city’s finance committee meetings so all alderman can attend.