JACKSONVILLE — The city’s draft 2019 budget has incurred a $110,000 deficit due to rising employee insurance and retirement costs, the City Council learned Thursday.
City officials must now make spending cuts or find new sources of money to fill the hole in its previously balanced, approximately $14.8 million proposed budget.
“We no longer have a balanced budget,” Laura Copeland, finance accountant for the city, said to the council. “Right now I don’t know where that money is going to come from.”
The council learned of the new deficit during a called meeting Thursday to work on the draft budget. The council expects to approve its 2019 budget by Sept. 24, in time for the start of the 2019 fiscal year Oct. 1.
Copeland said she learned about the cost increases last week and added them into the proposed budget.
Specifically, Copeland said, the Alabama State Employees’ Insurance Board raised health insurance costs for cities by 5 percent.
“The amount that city employees pay is not changing, just what the city pays,” she said.
Also, the Retirement Systems of Alabama recently raised city employee retirement funding costs by 1.4 percent. Again, that increase only applies for the money the city must pay into employee retirement benefits.
Also during the budget work session, Police Chief Tommy Thompson announced he would retire on Dec. 1.
Thompson, 68, joined the Jacksonville Police Department in 1971 and has served as chief for the last 30 years.
Thompson said it had just been in the last few months that he decided to retire.
“I decided I was getting a little tired of it,” Thompson said after the meeting. “I’ve enjoyed it, but it’s time to let someone else do it.”
Thompson, who first came to Jacksonville in 1968, said he didn’t yet know how he planned to spend his retirement.
“We’ll just wait and see,” he said.
During the regular City Council meeting following the budget work session, the council voted for a moratorium on where mobile homes can be located in residential areas in the city.
Under the moratorium, mobile homes will be allowed in specified groups, but not on individual lots. Previously, the city had a moratorium on mobile homes in groups and individual lots.
“We’re doing this because of the apparent need for additional housing in the city,” Mark Stephens, city planning and development coordinator, said after the meeting.
Hundreds of homes in the city were damaged or destroyed by the March 19 tornado.
Also during the meeting, the council talked about appointments to the city’s industrial development board.
In a previous meeting, the council had tentatively picked four new members for the board to replace those with expired terms and a vacancy. After that meeting, however, two current members of the board whose terms were expiring — including its chairman, Red Etheredge — indicated to the city that they still wanted to serve and didn’t realize they had to submit an application to do so.
Council President Sandra Sudduth, Mayor Johnny Smith and Councilman Jerry Parris all said they’d rather Etheredge get reappointed to the board, given his work for the city and his expertise in industrial development.
Etheredge was previously the director of the Alabama Development Office and the mayor of Greenville for four terms.
“We got the one guy in the state who’s done more to get industry or this state than probably anyone, and we got him for free,” Smith said.
The council agreed to vote on whom to appoint to the board at its next meeting.