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Jonesboro City Council to discuss budget today

Months after a millage rate increase drew protests from some Jonesboro residents, the city’s finance director said the municipality is likely to keep the property tax at its current rate in the upcoming fiscal year.

Finance Director Sandra Meyers said Jonesboro is expected to maintain its property tax rate at 1.5 mills, to generate revenues of approximately $65,000. Jonesboro’s city council narrowly agreed to set the tax rate at the current level earlier this fall, after it spent several years at a zeroed-out level.

Meyers said Jonesboro’s proposed, balanced budget for 2012 totals $2.76 million. That is an increase of nearly $10,000 over the city’s $2.75 million fiscal year 2011 budget.

“It’s not that much different from the budget we approved last year,” Meyers said. “We’re not going to increase the millage rate.”

The City Council will hold a called meeting this morning (Thursday), at 9 a.m., to review its proposed 2012 budget, at Jonesboro Police Department Headquarters, located at 170 South Main St.

That meeting will be followed a day later by a public hearing, in which citizens will be allowed to weigh in on the proposed spending plan. The hearing is scheduled for Friday, at 9 a.m., in the same location.

Residents will not be able to offer public comment on the proposed budget during today’s called meeting, because “it is a work session,” Meyers said. Therefore, Friday will likely be the community’s only opportunity to contest, or offer support, for the proposed budget.

A year ago, Jonesboro found itself in a tight financial situation, prompting a call for a millage rate. Still, despite the renewed property tax, some programs, such as the summer concert series, ended up cut, so the city could reduce spending. Jonesboro Days, the city’s Christmas Festival, and Taste of Clayton, also were reduced last year.

The intention behind those cuts was to reduce spending without resorting to employee layoffs. Three positions were eliminated in the police department, but they became vacant through attrition.

Meyers said no cuts to staff or services are included in the proposed budget, but acknowledged that the city’s finances are stretched thin.

“We think it’s a good budget,” Meyers said. “We didn’t include any significant cuts, which is good, because I honestly don’t see where they could make any more cuts.”