A year after a tax levy vote led to what was considered the most heated city council meeting in nearly a decade, Jacksonville aldermen passed the levy in much calmer fashion last night.
Aldermen passed the second reading of a five percent, $5.5 million levy for 2014 by an 8-2 measure. The same aldermen that voted against it- Adonnis Shaw and Steve Warmowski- were the “no” votes this time, as well.
Warmowski explained to fellow aldermen why he voted “no”.
“I contacted the supervisor of assessors for the county, and there’s going to be a half-percent decrease in property values [for] what we’re going to assess. So, even if we didn’t increase our tax levy, taxes would be going up for Jacksonville residents,” says Warmowski.
“If we wanted to pass a tax levy increase just to pay for pensions, I think we’d need about a two percent increase just to cover that cost.”
Warmowski added the city needs a better plan than automatically getting as much as it can each time a tax levy vote rolls around.
“The city’s not growing. It’s probably having some losses in population. Some losses in business. And we have to take some good, hard looks at what we can do with the size of the city to bring it in line with where the population and the community’s going,” he says.
Despite December usually only having one meeting, last December saw multiple meetings after Shaw claimed city council didn’t follow parliamentary procedure on its initial tax levy vote. Mayor Andy Ezard is happy this year’s vote went a lot smoother.
“The aldermen did a very job over the course of the year of reaching out to people that understand the levy, and got their questions answered. Last year, it was a relatively new counsel, and they’ve never been through a tax levy,” he says.
“This year, it’s changed pace because they asked the clerk and our auditor on what exactly is a tax levy, and it made things a lot smoother in their decision-making.”
City Clerk Skip Bradshaw explains what happens next for the levy now that it’s been passed by city council.
“We send our ordinance that we passed to the clerk’s office at the county. From there, it’s sent down to the assessor or the treasurer or whatever. Once it goes over there and we get confirmation that they’ve got it, our job is done,” says Bradshaw.
“We usually get what we request. In talking to John Eyth, our auditor, if we request it, that’s what we should be getting.”
Towards the end of the meeting, several aldermen asked about the budget. Preliminary drafts have been kicked around the last few meetings, but there wasn’t anything on the agenda regarding the budget last night. Ezard notes it’s not due until March.
“We wanted to start the process earlier this year to get questions, and we’ve gotten questions on that, back and forth, and I think once the discussion starts in January, there will still be questions that they want to hear,” he says.
“But I know they will reach out and we’ll try to answer anything between now and then that we can, but I anticipate that the meetings running smoothly in January as well.”
Aldermen gave the green light to a group led by real estate agent and former city councilman Tom Grojean, as well as Jacksonville Main Street official Kristen Jenkins, to proceed with plans for the 2015 Downtown Celebration.
The main focus of the discussion was allowing alcohol consumption across the square, instead of confined areas. We’ll have more on that this afternoon.
Aldermen passed a resolution authorizing a waiver of advertisement for bids and accepting the proposal of PDC Technical Services for the post-closure work of the Jacksonville Municipal Landfill.