It wasn’t easy but budget moves on
After a marathon meeting, it had come to this: The City Council Finance Committee needed five votes to pass its budget proposal but there were only five members still there.
And Reggie Brown wasn't budging.
The committee had restored $51 million in cuts, including keeping six libraries open, funding the Mayport ferry and avoiding massive layoffs in the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
The restorations made during dozens of hours of discussion the past few weeks corresponded with a potential 1.1698 millage increase.
Brown voted against the budget, saying he still had concerns about social services programs and recreation centers that remained unfunded.
"I don't feel personally that I am doing (for) the taxpayers what I would say I would do," Brown told the committee.
The vote was stuck at 4-1.
If the proposal wasn't approved Thursday, the committee would have to come back Monday for a special meeting or the council president could discharge at Tuesday's council meeting.
Finance Chair Greg Anderson was among those who showed agitation toward Brown's stance, telling him that the committee and staff had spent hours struggling through "every little line item" in their review.
"You're not being fair," Anderson told Brown.
Then, Anderson ordered a 10-minute recess.
When the recess ended, committee member Robin Lumb had made his way back to the meeting. Council Vice President Clay Yarborough specially appointed Bill Bishop and Kim Daniels, who had been in and out of the meeting that day, to the committee.
A 7-1 vote ended a seven-hour meeting where council members had their first opportunity to make personal pitches for their priorities.
The Brentwood and Maxville library branches, the only two of six left unfunded last week, had their combined $266,000 funding restored. Council member Denise Lee questioned how certain libraries were determined to be closed and argued that if any on the list closed, they all should.
Those restored last week were the
Willowbranch, Beaches, University Park and San Marco branches.
Finance member Richard Clark said the two that were left unfunded had been discussed "over and over" the past several years and were part of a system that grew, but weren't supported, through the Better Jacksonville Plan.
The Cultural Council received $350,000 and the Military Affairs, Veterans and Disabled Services Department had two civil-service positions totaling almost $120,000 restored when two other positions were cut.
With many supporters in the audience, the Mayport ferry received $450,000 for its operations and a $1 million grant was approved for infrastructure improvements.
Attempts to restore funding to Local Initiatives Support Corp., several community centers and early literacy were among those that were unsuccessful.
Also unsuccessful was Anderson's proposal to use 0.25 mill from the potential tax increase to help pay down the city's unfunded pension liability.
The idea received no support, with several members saying the pension and budget issues should remain separated.
More changes and amendments can still be made in the coming weeks at full council meetings.
A public comment opportunity for the public to weigh in on the budget will be Tuesday and again Sept. 24, when the council is expected to finalize the budget before the start of the Oct. 1 fiscal year.