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Thomas Clatterbuck

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Jacksonville will have a balanced budget going into next year. At their last meeting, the Jacksonville City Council voted 7-1 for the FY20 appropriations bill and budget. Staying in line with the property tax increase from December, the budget grew by three percent; 2.5 percent of which was due to salary increases.

The budget also provides for the required contributions to the various pension funds. Alderman Cook said that the city is on track to meet the 90 percent funding requirement by 2040. Recent downturns in the market may reduce funding percentages, but the city is doing what the actuaries have said is necessary.

Jacksonville also has a significant fund balance in the bank. Cities are advised to have an emergency fund, and Jacksonville’s is equal to seven or eight months’ worth of expenses. It is so high, that it might limit the city’s ability to get some grants. In an effort to draw down this balance to the recommended levels, and improve city services, the Mayor and Fire Department pushed for the purchase of two new fire engines. This money would be considered a capital improvement, and does not factor into the 3 percent rise in the budget.

The case for purchasing the engines was very similar to the case made in Springfield this year. Aging equipment in the department needs to be replaced and upgraded. Pierce, the company that sells the engines, also raises prices annually, and so the savings for purchasing the two trucks now was more than $100,000.

Still, there were some objections to the move. Alderman Steve Warmowski questioned the use of the fund balance for the move. While he saw the need for upgrades, and was not opposed to the purchases themselves, Warmowski said this was a break from the previous arguments the council had made regarding using the emergency fund. He would have preferred a plan, similar to Springfield’s, where these upgrades are planned and budgeted for over time. Warmowski would be the lone “no” vote on all three appropriations bills.

Ambulance Service

The council also heard about the ongoing issues providing adequate ambulance service in Jacksonville. In the past, as many as four companies have serviced the town; now only one remains. While the ambulance commission is not aware of any issues that have arisen so far, it is a point of concern. The high cost of operating an ambulance, combined with the low pay for EMTs is presenting challenges for the industry. Fire departments have take up some of the slack, but the commission and council are looking for a long term solution. You can watch the full discussion in the player below.

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Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.

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LIVE | Springfield City Council meeting February 19th

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Follow along live with the Springfield City Council meeting February 19th, 2019. The FY20 budget will be up for final discussion and vote.

DSI also discussed the plans for the upcoming concert series supported by the Levitt Foundation. Springfield won a nationwide Levitt AMP contest for a $25,000 grant.

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LIVE | Springfield City Council committee of the whole February 13th, 2019

Thomas Clatterbuck

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Follow along live with the Springfield City Council committee of the whole. This meeting was moved from the 12th for Lincoln’s birthday. Brian McFadden from Sangamon County spoke about the animal control situation and the county’s policies.

UIS baseball coach Chris Ramirez was recognized for his team’s achievements. Ramirez was awarded coach of the year.

This meeting was preceded by a special City Council meeting, where $1.2 million in TIF funding was approved for the Poplar Place Redevelopment Project. This money will go towards road infrastructure for the area. The council was unanimous in their support for the project, and looks forward to the multi-million dollar development.

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Boy Scout day at Jacksonville City Council showcases parliamentary procedure

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City council meetings can be a intimidating event for the first time visitor. The procedures that help the meetings run smoothly can be difficult to understand or track if you don’t know what’s going on. But at last night’s city council meeting in Jacksonville, local Boy Scouts got a hands-on look at why the council does things this way. This chance for the scouts to take part in the council meeting is an annual event.

The meeting’s agenda was routine. Claims were paid, and the liquor ordinance was amended. But the lack of action was a chance for Mayor Ezard and the aldermen to explain the procedure for the meeting.

During the workshop, the parks and lakes department also discussed a grant they are trying for to expand the trails at Lake Jacksonville. You can watch that discussion in the player below.

 

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