City Council shows positive reception to mayor’s budget, heavy on safety and improvements.
Mayor Lenny Curry’s $1.37 billion budget for fiscal year 2019-20 includes a $70 million increase for public safety and improvements to historic, city-owned entertainment venues.
Curry delivered the budget Monday morning to City Council. It is up $59 million, or about 4.5 percent, from the budget approved for the current fiscal year.
The largest single investment in the budget’s $173.5 million Capital Improvement Plan is a $20 million line-item to University of Florida Health for building and infrastructure improvements.
If approved, the budget will provide $5 million for capital investment for the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens; $1.5 million in capital investment for Mayport dock redevelopment; and more than $1 million for improvements for the Ritz Theatre and Museum ($570,000) and the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center ($440,000).
The capital improvement budget includes $1 million in match dollars for improvements to the Florida Theatre, part of a five-year agreement between the city and the nonprofit theater’s board of directors.
Also in the CIP is a proposed $5 million fire station near Arlington Road and Atlantic Boulevard. The site is in District 4, represented by council President Scott Wilson, but also will serve council member Joyce Morgan’s District 1.
Morgan said the fire and rescue facility will help cut emergency response times in both districts.
“That is crucial to what’s going on in my district,” Morgan said. “Anything that increases fire safety and rescue safety is paramount in my book.”
Curry’s proposed budget will provide more money for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office School Guardian program, from $3.3 million in fiscal year 2018-19 to $3.8 million in 2019-20. The program provides sworn officers and JSO-trained safety assistants in Duval County Public Schools.
In total, Curry’s budget gives JSO a $42.5 million increase from last year to nearly $481.6 million.
Curry told reporters after the presentation that public safety and youth programs topped the budget’s agenda. He proposed a $2.7 million increase for the Kids Hope Alliance and money for juvenile justice prevention programs previously managed by the State Attorney’s Office.
Later Monday, council Finance Committee Chair Aaron Bowman released dates for departmental hearings about Curry’s budget.
The committee will hear from city departments from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 8-9, 15-16 and 21-23 before the full council votes this summer on a final budget, which takes effect Oct. 1.
The proposed budget does not recommend raising taxes or the city’s millage rate.
Ordinance 2019-500 will be introduced at the July 23 council meeting to set that rate. Council can raise the rate for additional revenue to pay for projects members want to add. Bowman said he expects any budget changes in the committee process to be revenue neutral.
“I’m just one of 19,” Bowman said, “but I would say there will not be an increase of the millage.”