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Mayor Alvin Brown presented his budget to City Council today.
Jax Daily Record Monday, Jul. 14, 201412:00 PM EST

Jacksonville Landing, public safety get boost in Mayor Alvin Brown's budget

by: David Chapman

Mayor Alvin Brown’s $1 billion budget is now in the hands of City Council.

“Today, I am honored to present council with a budget that is balanced – and with no increase in our property tax rate,” Brown told council members Monday morning.

It won’t raise taxes, but it is pulling almost $17 million from city reserves to bolster investments throughout Brown’s budget.

Brown proposes partnering with the sheriff to bolster public safety through including money needed to hire an additional 40 sworn officers and 40 community service officers. Sheriff John Rutherford earlier this year asked a council group reviewing the budget for more than $8 million to do just that.

Brown is asking for council approval on $11.8 million of infrastructure improvements to the Jacksonville Landing. Plans to remake the Downtown entertainment venue have been in the works for months, with Brown calling it a high priority.

Landing owner Toney Sleiman said he was happy with the mayor’s commitment and that such an investment “will be for the people of Jacksonville.”

There are also funding boosts for the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and nonprofits.

“We have reached a point in the life of our community when we must seize the moment and use our resources to make not only a better today, but a better tomorrow for Jacksonville,” Brown said.

Those investments will be aided by spending a “modest share” of reserves. The $16.8 million represents about 1.6 percent of Brown's proposed budget, according to a fact sheet provided by Brown’s administration.

After his address to council, Brown said spending reserves was part of making the “right investments” at a time when the economy is doing well.

“I think we’re in the right place,” he said.

While Brown isn’t raising taxes in his budget, he is using the property tax rate council raised last year to fund city services. That point wasn’t lost on at least one council member.

Council member Bill Gulliford asked Brown if using last year’s approved rate was an endorsement of council’s action – Brown opposed the increase then and has opposed tax increases since he entered office.

“No,” Brown replied.

Council will spend the next several months reviewing Brown’s budget, before approving the fiscal 2014-15 spending plan by the end of September.

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