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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Sep. 26, 201707:00 AM EST

City's $1.273B budget nears finish line

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City Council poised to approve Mayor Curry’s 2017-18 budget with few changes.
by: David Cawton Staff Writer

After months of scrutiny, Jacksonville’s 19-member City Council is expected to move forward Tuesday with Mayor Lenny Curry’s proposed $1.273 billion for fiscal year 2017-18. 

The budget, which Curry introduced in July, increases spending 6.33 percent from $1.198 billion this year.

Nine pieces of legislation are associated with the budget, all of which can be altered through floor amendments during debate at City Hall beginning at 5 p.m. 

The seven-member council Finance Committee deliberated and altered the budget over three weeks in August as it met with city department and independent authority leaders about their requests.

When the budget legislation passes, Curry will have until Sept. 30 to sign it into law before the fiscal year begins Oct. 1. 

Taxes

Resolution 2017-500 - along with Ordinances 2017-501, 502 and 503, deal with annual taxes paid to the city by Duval County taxpayers.

Resolution 2017-500 approves the ad valorem tax millage rates for the next year, which will remain at 11.4419 mills for most of Duval County.

For Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach and Jacksonville Beach taxpayers, the rate will remain at 8.1512 mills, and for Baldwin the rate will remain 9.6312. 

Duval County property owners have not seen an increase in the millage rate since 2012. 

For the majority of residents, that comes to $11.4419 per $1,000 in assessed property value. 

The three ordinances authorize the city to levy those taxes in each of the five general service districts and use the revenue collected as outlined in budget legislation. 

Approving city budgets

Ordinance 2017-504 is the heart of the legislation because it approves each city department’s budget and sets restrictions. 

The 51-page bill establishes public service grants, capital outlays and carryovers and it provides for federal public service grants, along with federal and state grant programs. 

It approves general fund money for city employee salaries and benefits, establishes an employee cap and position allocations and approves temporary hours in each department’s budget. 

It also allows the council to approve the projected general revenue funds and expenditures for the year. 

The bill establishes the mayor’s capital improvement program for the fiscal year, which is part of a five-year, $1.2 billion infrastructure and capital improvement plan. This year’s portion is about $150.5 million and includes money for capital improvement projects, stormwater and solid waste projects. 

The legislation approves the budgets for the city’s debt management fund, as well as the septic tank superfund, which pays for the continued removal of septic tanks in the city.

The bill provides funding and approves the budgets for the JEA, Jacksonville Aviation Authority, Jacksonville Port Authority and Jacksonville Transportation Authority, as well as the Police and Fire Pension Fund, the Jacksonville Housing Finance Authority and the Downtown Vision Inc. Business Improvement District.  

It approves funding for stormwater management and solid waste services. 

The bill also is used to fund and adopt the budgets for the Downtown Investment Authority, Renew Arlington, King-Soutel Crossing and the Jacksonville International Airport community redevelopment areas. It also funds the Tourist Development Council. 

Finally, the bill lists the amendments made during the budget review sessions.

Capital Improvement Program

Ordinance 2017-505 adopts the mayor’s five-year Capital Improvement Program, covering 2018-22 at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion for more than 220 projects.  Each year, council will review the program and can make adjustments. 

Highlights for 2017-18 are $8 million to demolish the former Duval County Courthouse and City Hall buildings along East Bay Street and $8 million for the continued remediation of the Liberty Street and the Coastline Drive parking deck. 

Almost $24 million is set aside for sidewalk improvement projects, including $2.6 million for ADA compliance and $12 million for improving county roads. 

Of the coming year’s $150.5 million, the city plans to use about $47.6 million in cash, while authorizing about $102.9 million in new debt. 

The authorizations don’t mean the city will incur that debt this year. 

Health care, IT and annual growth

Ordinance 2017-506 authorizes an agreement between the city and UF Health Jacksonville and authorizes the city to contribute $26.2 million to the city’s indigent health care fund. 

Ordinance 2017-507 adopts the 2018-22 Inclusive IT Systems Development Program, which will oversee more than $30 million in upgrades to the city’s information technology assets during that time.

Ordinance 2017-508 adopts the annual growth rate for the future pension liability surtax, approved by council Aug. 31. 

Amendments 

Council members had until Monday to file floor amendments to be presented during the Tuesday night council meeting.  

Five of the seven Finance Committee members and council member Doyle Carter offered 12 floor amendments.

The Finance Committee is seeking to move $12 million “above the line” to pay for an outsourced corrections health services contract for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. 

Finance Vice Chair Danny Becton wants to make an additional payment to the city’s pension liabilities this year, in addition to scheduled contributions. 

One of Becton’s amendments would move $8.6 million from the Pension Reserve Fund for an additional payment this year.

Becton also offers an amendment to change pension contributions based on a percentage of pay raises and bonuses for Jacksonville Fire and Rescue and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office employees still in the defined benefit program. 

The amendment moves $14.1 million from the pension reserve to departmental pension contributions. 

“It’s a better estimation of what our pension obligation should be, based on the payroll of the next year,” Becton said.

“We have got to start considering what happens to the next generation,” said Becton, who still is trying to introduce legislation to make additional payments to the city’s $2 billion pension liability. 

Becton also wants another $8.4 million to be moved from the city Parks and Recreation Department to the Public Works Department for water and sewer line projects. 

Finance Chair Garrett Dennis asks for $25,000 in the Public Works budget for sandbags in case of another major weather event. 

Other amendments address changes to language or allocating extra money found after the Finance Committee’s budget review.  

Council members Lori Boyer and Reginald Brown, both members of the Finance Committee, said they didn’t think legislation needs to be amended any further. 

“I think it’s where it needs to be,” said Boyer, who has two amendments that have no financial impact listed.

“You may see some technical things come up, or something that addresses conflicting language, but nothing too critical,” she said. 

Brown said the time for debate is over. 

“We invited every council member to participate in our budget talks,” Brown said. 

“I’m personally ready to defend the decisions we made during our review.” 

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