Jonesboro budget includes pay raises

City Council asking for homestead exemption referendum

— The Jonesboro City Council unanimously approved a new $3.18 million fiscal year 2013 budget Monday that includes a 2.5-percent pay raise for city employees and increased spending for events in the city.

The pay raises and increased events funding stand in stark contrast to the city’s situation two years ago, when then-Mayor Luther Maddox pledged that “every department is going to have to make cuts,” which would have likely included the cutting of positions. City leaders are now reversing some of the drastic cuts made in the city in 2010, with more money for employees being a centerpiece of sorts.

“There was a raise approved, across the board, for all employees,” council member Pat Sebo said.

The budget will go into effect Jan. 1, but Jonesboro residents will have one lingering, budget-related issue to keep an eye on. Council members unanimously approved a petition to the Clayton County Legislative Delegation, asking for legislation that would let residents vote on lowering their homestead exemption from $60,000 to $30,000 so more residents will be eligible to pay property taxes that were re-instituted in 2011.

Because the exemption is so high for homeowners, the burden of paying the 1.5-mill property tax has largely fallen on business owners, who in turn have asked city leaders to get the exemption lowered to ease that burden. The city council has tried, unsuccessfully, for the last two years to get the county legislative delegation to introduce legislation to call for a referendum on lowering the exemption.

However, little local legislation has been introduced by the delegation during the last two years.

The budget also includes an increase in spending for renting land for summer concerts, from the $2,000 budgeted for 2012, to $3,000 for 2013. Spending for special events was also increased from $3,000 to $4,000.