Article originally published at WJCT.org
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry presented his $1.4 billion budget proposal for the 2021-2022 fiscal year to City Council Tuesday, placing an emphasis on public safety.
The 172-page Operating General Fund proposal from the mayor is about $70 million more than what the city operates on for the current fiscal year.
“We can advance this budget because of the sound fiscal practices that we have implemented since taking office: Savings from pension reform, the utilization of American Rescue Plan dollars, and the ‘Jobs For Jax’ initiative approved earlier this year,” Curry said in his speech to City Council.
“Because of the smart and responsible decisions we’ve made, in previous years, Jacksonville is in a prime position to not only recover from the pandemic, but emerge stronger than we were before.”
In May, the City Council approved a 6-cent gas tax hike that the mayor lobbied for that will take effect in January. Outside of the already approved gas tax, no other tax-rate increases are being requested.
Most of the budget increase Curry is proposing is to accommodate budget increases for Jacksonville’s Fire and Rescue Department and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, as well as gradual pay raises for all city employees over the next few years.
JSO is receiving a sizable bump in its budget from $484 million in the current fiscal year to $502 million, mostly to its Department of Investigation and Homeland Security, and its Department of Patrol and Enforcement.
The proposal is significantly lower than the request JSO submitted to the Mayor’s Budget Review Committee in June, which asked for $513.8 million. While JSO asked for $10 million to be added to its Department of Corrections, Curry’s budget decreases it from current levels by over $2 million.
The budget for Police Services was also slashed by over $3 million in Curry’s proposal.
JFRD’s budget sees an increase of over $30 million in Curry’s budget, increasing from $279.5 million in the current fiscal year to $314.5 million, about $1 million more than it requested in June.
The city’s total budget - if approved as requested - will be nearly $3.5 billion, an increase of $500 million from the current fiscal year. The $1.4 billion Operating General Fund, which is typically referred to as “the budget,” is how the government pays for day-to-day expenses of its departments to keep the city running.
This budget is more malleable, and can be changed to accommodate the priorities of city officials and the general public.
The other $2 billion is mostly earmarked to specific projects already approved by City Council or mandated by state or federal law with dollar amounts already set in stone. This involves things such as pension trust funds, the Better Jacksonville Plan approved in 2000 and the 911 Emergency User Fee.
Mayor Curry also submitted his proposed Capital Improvement Plan for Fiscal Years 2022-2026 to City Council on Tuesday.
The CIP are funds set aside as a prediction of costs for constructing and maintaining infrastructure, public facilities and capital buildings owned by the city.
“Since taking office in 2015, I’ve made it a priority to invest in communities and neighborhoods throughout all of Duval County,” he said. “But because of years of neglect, and underinvestment, we are still not where we need to be.”
Curry’s $2.3 billion projection for the next 5 years also includes nearly $500 million for 169 projects for the upcoming fiscal year. These projects include new fire stations, sidewalk construction and libraries.
“We’re now able to go even further with projects that improve conditions, enhance quality of life, and create better environments where citizens and businesses can thrive,” Curry said.
Preparing the city for environmental changes was also a central part of Curry’s message. Promoting the city’s new Resiliency Office, Curry promised $54 million of CIP funds would go towards addressing sea level rise on Jacksonville’s coasts and $50 million for replacing septic tanks in the city’s neighborhoods in the coming fiscal year and more in future years.
The Jacksonville City Council will ask for public comment on the budget over the next two months, while the council’s Finance Committee will review the budget during more than a half-dozen hearings from Aug. 12 to Aug.27.
After two public hearings in September, the full City Council will vote on the final budget, which needs to be approved and signed by Mayor Curry before the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1.
Article by Raymon Troncoso originally published at WJCT.org. Raymon Troncoso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @RayTroncoso.