The Village of South Jacksonville has been cutting money from their budget. The village trustees wrapped the second of three public budget and appropriations hearings last Thursday night. Streets Superintendent John Green and Fire Chief Richard Evans Jr. were the department heads on hand for the hearing, as the trustees went line by line of each department. They had met with Police Chief Tim Mann last Tuesday for the village’s police budget for the upcoming year.
Green’s streets and public works budget had minor tweaking, as he requested that the village look at the tourism fund for some extra money for Godfrey Park. Trustees and village administration was unsure if money could be appropriated to the park’s water bill through the tourism fund, otherwise the water toy’s cost of operation will come directly from the village’s general fund. The concern surrounding general fund bills for all departments is the lack of revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The largest challenge of the night came to the village’s ambulance service. The village’s ambulance acts as a fourth ambulance to the Jacksonville region. The village had pulled a 5 year report on whether the ambulance service has made any money or broke even. Village Treasurer Tiffanee Peters told the board that last year was the first time it had made money in that time span, with a surplus of a little over $300. Village President Harry Jennings says that the trustees are going to look at a model proposal before deciding to cut the service entirely. “We have a part-time ambulance service so a couple of the options we have looked at is keeping it the way it is, making sure that the ambulance focuses on South Jacksonville. Another option is getting rid of it in its entirety, which is not something that we want to do necessarily; but it’s on the table. Another option is making it more of a full-time ambulance service as something that would generate more revenue and provide a bigger service for the village. Obviously that’s something that would cost more, but it would bring in more revenue. We’re going to look at some models and see what would work out best for the village.”
Jennings says the cuts are possibly just temporary as the village anticipates the ebb and flow of the pandemic’s economic downturn in the state. “The biggest things are just capital outlay items. Hopefully, those will be some things that will be able to be put back in [the budget] later. It all depends on long-term revenue as things open back up, the state opens up later on down in the year. Hopefully those revenues will go back up. It’s all about anticipated revenues. We’re trying to be overly cautious right now. We don’t want to kick the can too much down the road, but we will do what we can right now.”
Jennings says that the village’s small size is playing in its favor as the village isn’t dealing with as large of a revenue shortfall as some other municipalities. “We are very fortunate in the fact that, while we are looking at some lower tax revenues in certain areas; we don’t have as big of a sales tax base as some of the bigger cities and towns, so we are not as hard hit as some other municipalities. The bad thing is that you’re not going to see the effect until two fiscal years down the road. Some businesses are going to struggle down. Some might not permanently close until 6-8 months down the road. It’s going to drag on, but it’s not all doom and gloom. With our size and our revenue and tax base, we’re not doing too bad.”
The Village will hold their final budget meeting on May 28th at 6:30 at Village Hall where they will discuss village payroll among other outlying budget issues.