JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - City council’s finance committee sat down with the council auditor Thursday morning to go over the Mayor’s proposed budget line-by-line for the first time and hear his recommendations. While the majority of the meeting was consumed by members of city council grilling council auditor Kirk Sherman with questions about specific expenses and revenues, there was some interesting dialogue between one council member and the city budget office.
Chief Financial Officer Ronnie Belton and budget officer Glenn Hansen were explaining during their introduction of the budget how they had asked city business departments for tentative budgets at 98 percent of the previous year's budget, or in other words cut by two percent. While some departments made the cuts, some didn’t, and that made councilman John Crescimbeni uncomfortable
"I cannot fathom the chief financial officer making that request and then everybody not complying with it. I don't get that. I would not tolerate that for one second," said Crescimbeni. "If they can't follow simple instructions then what's the point of having them be employed to put a budget together to begin with?"
He says he can’t understand why they then asked even those departments that did make cuts for an additional 14 percent cut.
"That's a sloppy, irresponsible way to put a budget together."
Crescimbeni says the budget was presented sloppily and he thinks it’s unacceptable to saddle individual departments with huge funding lapses and then make them figure out out how to deal with it.
Among other things discussed were the actual implementation of the millage rate and what that would look like as well as one of the city council auditor's recommendations that Utility Service Tax revenue be decreased by $2.9 million because the projection was based on historical temperatures and weather patterns that may or may not return to JEA's service area. In other words, they are concerned JEA might not bring in as much revenue through this particular tax this year because the past year has been highlighted by extreme temperatures and strange weather that we might not normally see.
Actual voting on that recommendation was postponed until council members can get JEA representatives to come and talk about their projections and whether they believe the auditor's recommendation is a good one.
The finance committee will continue to have budget hearings throughout the month of August. All are open to the public.
The new fiscal year begins October 1.