JACKSONVILLE — The city's 2013-14 budget is up more than 12 percent from last year, with most of the increase coming from the sale of land in the watershed for $680,000.
Jacksonville's budget, approved by the City Council in June, is $7.66 million, up from $6.8 million last year, and residents can expect to see some city fees go up in 2014-15 to maintain services and facilities, city officials predicted.
The town and the Motorcycle Riders Association entered into a sale and land-swap agreement last year that brings the cash and a 40-acre area with parking adjacent to Forest Park. The off-road group gains 380 acres of upper watershed land adjacent to its other holdings.
Most of the land-sale proceeds have already been designated for specific purposes in the budget, including:
In preparing the budget, officials noted that fees will need to be increased in coming years to continue support of services and infrastructure.
Jacksonville citizens have the lowest base water rate in the state at $9.90 per month, said Treasurer Stacey McNichols, adding that an increase is likely.
"We anticipate needing to do that next fiscal year," said McNichols. "Part of it is we haven't raised our water rates since 1995."
City Administrator Jeff Alvis has said water rates would need to increase by $5 per month to deal with state-mandated improvements to city water tanks and lines. One of the tanks is more than 100 years old, and some water lines are lined with asbestos.
A $26-per-month public safety fee, which finances the Fire Department, will also need to increase to keep up with expenses, officials said.
"Probably next year we'd increase one dollar, then skip a year so that it's not increasing every year," said McNichols.
General-fund spending will rise to $1,319,783 from $1,177,668 in the last fiscal year. The fund includes the Police Department, Planning Department and administration.
"That fund has the largest amount of employees in it," said McNichols.
Increased employee expenses include larger retirement contributions, wage increases negotiated with unions and additional funds for health insurance, said McNichols.
Other additions to the general fund include $20,000 for a buildable-lands survey as the city reviews its urban growth boundaries, $20,000 for a contract employee in the Planning Department to deal with increased building activity, $10,000 for a historic planning consultant and $10,000 for grant-match requirements.
In the separate Fire Department fund, a part-time employee was promoted to full-time status to deal with increased service calls.
Property owners will be taxed at the maximum rate allowed of $1.84 per $1,000 of assessed value. Property tax revenues are estimated to be $612,958.
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at email@example.com.