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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jul. 5, 201805:20 AM EST

The Cawton Report: New finance chair expects ‘good lift’ in revenue

Greg Anderson says Mayor Curry’s budget should see additional spending on infrastructure and public safety.
by: David Cawton Associate Editor

When City Council begins reviewing the third budget of Mayor Lenny Curry’s first term in August, a new Finance Committee chair will be in place.

“My background is financial and I tend to focus on the numbers first,” said Greg Anderson, who will lead the committee in 2018-19.

Anderson represents At-Large Group 4 and is a former council president. Outside of council, he is a senior private banking officer with TIAA Bank.

Council President Aaron Bowman selected Anderson to chair the committee.  Joyce Morgan is vice chair and members are Lori Boyer, Reginald Gaffney, Bill Gulliford, Jim Love and Sam Newby.

Beginning Aug. 16, Anderson will oversee the weekslong process of reviewing Curry’s proposed budget, which will include an estimated $189 million in capital improvement projects for the 2018-19 fiscal year according to WJXT TV 4.

Anderson said he expects the next budget to have “good lift in terms of revenue.”

“The good news is we should see more investment in infrastructure and with key public safety initiatives,” he said.

Since early April, the Mayor’s Budget Review Committee reviewed each city department’s budget. Curry presents the general fund draft to council in July.

Anderson said he’s seen the notes from those meetings and believes he’ll have a good idea of the mayor’s priorities when the committee begins its review.

“What I can say is it provides an opportunity for us to get ahead of the curve on some of the issues the city faces, mainly around infrastructure,” said Anderson.  

“You’ll also see some new initiatives, some investment in waterfront activation Downtown,” he said.

The budget review is changing this year because of a scheduling conflict for Bowman, who will be away from Jacksonville working on business recruitment as senior vice president of JAXUSA Partnership, the economic development division of JAX Chamber.

Council members approved legislation June 26 allowing the mayor to present his budget July 23, a one week delay, so Bowman could attend the Farnborough International Air Show in the United Kingdom. It is an annual economic-development event attended by chamber representatives.

Anderson said the compressed schedule will not affect the scope of the analysis.

“In fact, I believe we’re going to have an even stronger review,” he said.

This is Anderson’s second time as Finance chair. He served in the role during Guillford’s council presidency in 2012-13.

Anderson said his approach is simple.

“We’re going to test the assumptions of the revenues, making sure they’re real and repeatable and then we’re going to do the same with expenses,” he said.

“Then, we’re going to look at the priorities and make sure we’re in agreement.”

Anderson said he expects the committee to run smoothly, considering the experience provided by its members.

Gulliford is a former finance chair and council president. Love is entering his last year on council. Boyer and Gaffney return to the committee from the 2017-18 year.  Boyer also is a former council president.

“I think this committee is going to be very good,” said Anderson. “The level of experience combined with the district representation is really healthy and balanced in my opinion.”

He said Boyer is “steeped in the details of the CIP budget” and that Gulliford “brings a lot of experience.”

Anderson, a Republican, also is more aligned with Curry’s office than his predecessor, Garrett Dennis.  

Dennis, a Democrat who represents District 9, often used his position as Finance chair to push back on the executive branch’s budgetary and other initiatives.

He also received some criticism from city department heads during last year’s budget review for what some considered long and unproductive meetings.

For example, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, who was scheduled for 1½ hours, spent most of a day answering questions unrelated to his budget.

Former JEA CEO Paul McElroy spent 2½ hours answering questions, even though JEA was allotted 45 minutes on the agenda.

When asked about those criticisms, Dennis said he was being prudent.

Anderson said he’s ready for the committee to spend time “looking at the numbers and making informed decisions based on that review.”

“I’ve said this in the past, the city works best when the legislative and executive branches work around a shared vision,” said Anderson.

“I think we have an opportunity from a budget standpoint to understand that shared vision and put the numbers in place,” he said.

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