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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Aug. 9, 201707:00 AM EST

Mayor Curry's budget: The scrutiny begins

What to expect as the City Council Finance Committee begins to review the mayor’s 2017-18 budget.
by: David Cawton Staff Writer

Starting Thursday, the City Council Finance Committee is scheduled to dissect Mayor Lenny Curry’s proposed $1.273 billion budget line by line.

The seven-member committee, chaired by Garrett Dennis, will review Curry’s general revenue budget during at least seven daylong public hearings at City Hall.

That proposed budget is up 6.33 percent from this year’s $1.198 billion.

Council members Dennis, Vice Chair Danny Becton, Lori Boyer, Katrina Brown, Reggie Brown, Matt Schellenberg and Reggie Gaffney comprise the committee.

The 9 a.m.-5 p.m. hearings are scheduled Thursday, Friday, Aug. 17-18, Aug. 23-25 and, if needed, Aug. 26, a Saturday.

Meetings could last beyond 5 p.m.

Representatives from city departments, boards and commissions will present their budget requests for questions and feedback from the committee.

The committee will make recommendations to the full council, which must present a final budget before the fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

The committee meets at City Hall at 117 W. Duval St.

Week One: Thursday

Curry’s administration starts Thursday with a general overview of the budget and the mayor’s priorities.

One of those priorities is making Jacksonville safer.

Most of Thursday’s session will focus on budgets for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the Fire and Rescue Department. Both agencies could receive funding for additional positions.

The JSO budget, almost one-third of the city total, is projected at $410.5 million out of the general fund, down 3 percent from this year.

Revenue is projected at $12.2 million, up 42 percent. The “charges for service” category includes $2.9 million in SMG overtime reimbursements from officers working SMG events.

Expenses are down, with the largest relief from an estimated $37 million in savings from pension costs.

Curry’s budget projects annual salary increases of 6.3 percent starting Oct. 1, and the addition of 80 officers to be funded for half of the year.

Fire and Rescue hopes to fill 42 more positions over the next year, along with building two new fire stations.

The Fire and Rescue budget is projected at $217 million, down 1.6 percent.

Revenue is expected to increase 17.5 percent to $36.2 million. A $725,475 increase in ambulance revenue and overtime reimbursements for SMG make up most of the boost.

Like the sheriff’s office, payroll will go up with Oct. 1 raises and 42 additional positions will be funded for a portion of the fiscal year.

The department also will benefit from an estimated 30.2 percent decrease in pension costs, a savings of about $23 million.  

Week One: Friday

Friday features 14 presentations, beginning with the $32.1 million budget request for the Jacksonville Public Library system, up 1.4 percent from this year.

The Information Technology Division, Copy Center, Health Administrator, Housing Finance Authority and Military Affairs & Veterans departments will present budgets.

The budget for Fleet Management Operations remains mostly unchanged at $30.5 million, while sub-funds for vehicle replacement and direct replacement could increase by 34.2 percent and 10.1 percent to purchase vehicles and upgrade the fleet.

Curry wants to increase the budget for the Emergency Contingency sub-fund by 20 percent to $65.7 million.

The funds are reserved to respond to major weather events, significant infrastructure failures or any other emergencies, like cleaning up damage from hurricanes.

Another $7 million will be placed in the Emergency Incidents sub-fund in anticipation of FEMA and state reimbursements for disaster cleanup.

Week Two: Aug. 17

The committee will spend considerable time reviewing the Tax Collector, Supervisor of Elections, and State Attorney’s Office budgets, all slated for a minimal increase.

Curry requests a 32.3 percent increase for the Clerk of the Courts to about $5 million.

Funding of $508,000 could be used to replace the current tax deed software system, cameras, and other capital outlay projects.

The administration projects that revenue will rise about 16 percent, or $608,002, as fees for services bring in more money.

The administration proposes a $44.4 million budget, up 6.6 percent, for Parks, Recreation and Community Services, which oversees the city’s parks, pools, preserves, marinas, waterfront facilities and programs.

The biggest change, besides a reduction in pension costs, will be an additional $500,000 in capital outlay funds for the installation of cameras and enhanced lighting in city parks.  

Planning and Development and the Building Inspection Department budgets are scheduled to wrap up the day.

Week Two: Aug. 18

The committee will focus on budgets dealing with economic development and authorities.

The Office of Economic Development could see a 5.2 percent budget increase because of the relief from pension costs, but an increase for legal and information technology costs.

Curry proposes a 6 percent budget increase for the Downtown Investment Authority, mainly for increased salaries effective Oct. 1.

The JEA, Jacksonville Transpiration Authority, Jacksonville Aviation Authority and Jacksonville Port Authority also will present their budgets.

Week Three: Aug. 23

Curry’s Capital Improvement Program will be reviewed.

It includes about $150.5 million for general projects, stormwater improvements, solid waste projects and the Mayor’s Safer Neighborhoods Investment Plan.

Spending is proposed to improve roads and sidewalks, parks and pools, and to clean up blight Downtown.

The program includes $8 million to tear down the old Duval County Courthouse and City Hall buildings along Bay Street.

That initiative has received early support from several council members, but a controversial line item could result in debate.

Curry wants to spend $8.4 million to fix dormitories and refurbish a recreation field at Edward Waters College.

Some council members have expressed concern over using public funds for the projects.

Week Three: Aug. 24

Budgets for the mayor’s office, boards and commissions, and employee services are on the schedule, all with small increases.

Downtown Vision Inc. could receive another $146,000 to reach $458,491. The agency intends to hire more downtown ambassador positions if funds are approved.

Also, a new agency replacing the Jacksonville Journey and Jacksonville Children’s Commission, at a proposed $36 million budget, could receive considerable attention.  

If approved by council, the proposed Kid’s Hope Alliance would oversee the combined operations of the Journey and Children’s Commission with a new board and oversight.

The administration proposes a 2.2 percent budget increase to $43.2 million for Public Works, while the Neighborhoods Department could see a 1 percent bump to about $19 million.

Week Three: Aug. 25

The Finance Committee will take stock of the city’s pension position, risk management and insurance programs.

Week Three: Aug. 26

A session is possible if needed.

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