Final push to preserve jobs, services
Saving several city jobs.
Restoring several Jacksonville Journey programs, as well as senior center offerings.
Eliminating the Human Rights Commission.
All of those are among at least three dozen amendments the City Council will debate tonight before voting on the city budget.
The council Finance Committee restored more than $50 million in cuts in Mayor Alvin Brown's proposed budget, which had about $65 million in service cuts. Those restorations, plus whatever makes it through tonight, will be funded by a tax rate increase of up to 1.5 mills – good for an additional $65 million in revenue.
With about $14 million remaining, tonight will be the final opportunity to spend or save those funds.
Many programs, services, projects and personnel with cuts outstanding are slated to be addressed by council.
As of Monday afternoon, 36 floor amendments had been filed totaling $9.53 million from the special council contingency, the location of the projected millage revenue.
About $12.6 million would be borrowed through the banking fund.
The Jacksonville Public Library board still seeks $449,641 to maintain Saturday hours at the Main Library and another $173,370 for materials. Council member Bill Bishop has sponsored an amendment for the hours, but no one has come forth for the materials funding.
Library officials last week had to tell the committee about the hours cut, which was met with unhappiness after members voted in August to restore $1.8 million to keep six branches open and Sunday hours at their current level.
"We understand that closing one of the most popular public buildings downtown is in direct conflict with downtown reinvestment. However … we have no other option as we are losing eight full-time positions, and funds for custodial and security costs," library board Chair Brenda Simmons-Hutchins said Monday.
Library Director Barbara Gubbin and several library advocates will be in the crowd Tuesday.
During the budget review, several items that came up short on votes for the nine-person Finance Committee will be heard by all 19 members.
That includes a $399,880 restoration to Local Initiatives Support Corp., proposed by council member Greg Anderson.
The agency helps residential neighborhoods and commercial developments by assisting nonprofits through lending, staff, training and other means.
The funds would come through the Jacksonville Journey, another hard-hit program.
Council members Robin Lumb, John Crescimbeni and Reggie Brown have combined on one amendment to restore $880,121 to the anti-crime initiative.
That allocation would mean nearly all programs currently funded would be at the same level for the next fiscal year.
The two exceptions would be the Juvenile Assessment Center and Ex-Offender Re-Entry Portal that the committee earlier agreed to fund at other levels.
Brown will be the most active, with seven floor amendments in addition to his joint effort with Lumb and Crescimbeni.
He is attempting to restore $84,875 for the Bob Hayes Track Meet, $254,821 for the Summer Night Lights program and $22,932 to keep Forest View Park open, among other actions.
Council member Warren Jones has five amendments, most dealing with keeping parks and senior centers and their programs funded. He is seeking $202,019 to keep Louis Dinah, Hammond and Longbranch senior centers open, as well as $87,500 for the Edith Brown Community Center.
"The City of Jacksonville for decades has always been concerned for senior citizens and young people," Jones said. "I'm trying to make sure some of these programs stay in place."
One of two programs slated to lose funding through council amendments is the Downtown Investment Authority, which is proposed to have its $1.5 million operations budget slashed by $204,000.
Authority CEO Aundra Wallace initially asked for a $1.7 million budget that included five people, but the Finance Committee decided for just four people and no deputy director position.
When Wallace came back telling the committee he could make the numbers work for all five positions, the committee decided to cut the budget accordingly and left it at a four-person operation.
Wallace on Monday said the funds and extra person would allow the organization to be competitive.
The other floor amendment to cut funding will be offered by Don Redman, who is proposing to defund the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission. He has unsuccessfully tried to do so in the past.
Jones said he is expecting a long night, a sentiment council President Bill Gulliford agreed with Monday.
Gulliford said he is considering ways to push budget amendments toward the beginning of the meeting to encourage more involved debate.
He said with the amount of amendments, he will consider coming up with a way to randomly select the order in which they will be heard.
Gulliford said he also might ask council members to limit their debate time, but admitted that might be difficult.
How the budget has arrived at this point has both pros and cons, but it's one that "addresses major concerns."
"In some ways it's gone badly because of the budget we received. It's gone well from the efforts of many council members," he said.
Although council has the option to use revenue up to the 1.5 mill increase, Gulliford said that as an individual council member, he would rather not for "symbolic" reasons.
"I know there are still issues out there that need to be addressed," he said, "but I yield to the will of my colleagues."