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Jonesboro anticipates 2010 budget reduction

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The City of Jonesboro is considering a 2010 budget of $3,066,700, down nearly $29,000 from this year's budget of $3,095,600. With no proposed ad valorem taxes, and general fund interest revenues predicted to be down significantly from this year, the 2010 budget will remain conservative, according to city officials.

"We're not spending any more than the revenue that we are getting in," said Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox. "We don't have a perceived shortfall in the budget. We try to go into it with our eyes open. We estimate revenues on the conservative side so we don't get any big surprises at the end of the year."

The Jonesboro City Council discussed the proposed 2010 budget during a meeting on Tuesday. The City Council is expected to adopt a final budget on Dec. 14, prior to its regularly scheduled business meeting.

The city's proposed 2010 administration department expenditures are $634,662, up from this year's budget of $593,449.26. The total amount the city pays to administration employees and elected officials would go up to $227,120 in 2010, from $215,467 this year. The city would also bump up its expenditures for summer concerts from $5,000 to $12,000 and increase its budget for contingencies from $8,878.26 to $25,100.

The proposed supply budget for the administration department is $35,100, up from $30,700 this year.

The total proposed budget for court services is $182,085, up from $145,984 this year. The increase comes largely due to the addition of a new probation clerk, bringing the expenditures for regular employees in the court services department up from $79,831 this year to $112,230 next year.

The police department accounts for about half of the city's proposed 2010 budget. Total proposed expenditures for the department are $1,508,440, down from $1,676,695 this year. Salaries and wages for regular employees in the police department would be down to $876,850 in the proposed 2010 budget, compared to $928,407 this year. Group insurance for police department employees would also be down to $182,520 from $217,868 this year.

The proposed public works budget for 2010 is $690,183, up from $622,730.74 this year. A substantial portion of the increase is for building and maintenance repairs, which will jump from $33,421.74 to $72,000 if the proposed budget is approved as is.

"Just about every building in the city needs a new roof," said Jonesboro Public Works Director Joe Nettleton.

According to the city's proposed budget, the increase would cover maintenance for the Clayton County Fire Station No. 13 Community Room, new tables and chairs and renovations for the city's Cloud Street building, and the re-roofing of several buildings, including Jonesboro City Hall, the Jonesboro Police Department, Jonesboro Public Works, and the Firehouse Museum and Community Center.

The proposed budget for code enforcement is $51,330, down from $56,741 this year. The largest line item decrease comes from group insurance costs, which would go down from $9,818 to $5,970 if the new budget is adopted as is.

In 2010, the city will take on the additional responsibility of providing sanitation services for the first time. The proposed yearly budget for operating the service is $111,439.

Maddox said he believes the city will be able to make a small profit operating the service, as opposed to contracting the service out to a private company.

"The total cost of doing the service is $110,000," Maddox said. "We will probably have a small profit taking on the garbage service. When I say small, it is probably about $10,000. We're not trying to make a profit, but we don't want to lose money either."

According to city officials, the proposed 2010 budget assumes a 5 percent cost-of-living increase for all employees. The notion bothered some council members.

"We're increasing our salaries when revenues are going down," said Councilman Roger Grider. "That seems like the wrong direction to me. I think all increases should be merit based. If you give it across the board, you are awarding good employees as well as bad employees."

The council discussed the possibility of extending 2.5 percent raises to all employees at the beginning of the new year and allotting the other 2.5 percent later in the year to employees identified by department heads as exhibiting outstanding job performance.

The City Council will conduct a public budget hearing on Dec. 7 at 10 a.m., at the Jonesboro Police Department. The City Council is expected to vote on the proposed 2010 budget on Dec. 14 at 6:30 p.m., at the Jonesboro Police Department.