Jacksonville, FL - It’s our first look at how the City of Jacksonville wants to spend your tax dollars next year.
The Mayor’s Office has filed its preliminary estimations of revenue, spending, and other budget pieces for FY13-14, a proposal that adds up to roughly $950 million. And at this stage in the game, the most optimistic projection means there will still be a 4% cut across the board.
Overall, revenue is expected to climb a few million dollars overall from FY12-13. Within that rise, however, is a fall in property tax revenue. The Mayor’s proposal keeps the same tax rate as last year meaning, with declining property values, you will actually pay less overall. This was a particular point of disagreement with the Sheriff’s Office last year, who wanted to raise the millage rate- meaning you would pay the same amount overall as the prior year- and use that money to help fund his department. City Council ultimately sided with the Mayor, deciding to give you a break.
In a memo to City Council, Budget Officer Glenn Hansen says the Mayor’s proposal will not increase taxes. In a line-by-line breakdown of department allocation and projected revenue, however, a section titled “other taxes” increases by more than $7.5 million from the current fiscal year to the next. We are working to speak with the city about what that drastic increase reflects.
While the legislation reflecting the deal reached between the Mayor’s Office, Police and Fire Pension Fund, Fraternal Order of Police and Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters has been filed, the timeline for actually getting it through City Council is not clear, so two versions of the budget outline were submitted to council Monday- one reflecting whether this pension reform passes and another reflecting if it does not.
According to the Mayor’s Office estimations, whether pension reform passes makes a big difference on the cuts that city departments will feel.
The projected deficit if pension reform with the police and fire unions is not passed is $64 million. That deficit, in essence, is a figure of how much money would have to be made up somewhere in the budget in order to get the total package in balance. If an across-the-board cut were applied to every department, constitutional office and non-executive agency equally, that deficit would mean a 13.88% cut to each.
If this pension plan is passed, the deficit would shrink to nearly $19 million. That would mean a 4.09% cut across-the-board.
There is little guidance, at this stage, on how specifically the deficit will be absorbed. That is something that will become more clear in the next six weeks when the final proposal from the Mayor is due.
As is the case every year, the Office of the Sheriff and the Fire & Rescue budgets are two of the top expenditures in terms of departmental budgets. While there was a small boost proposed for Fire & Rescue, the Office of the Sheriff’s budget is actually projected to shrink by several million dollars under the proposal which reflects no pension reform. Without pension reform, the payout for police and fire pension is around $150 million (roughly the total of all pension payout for the present fiscal year).
Again, we have requested a sit-down with the city to dig in to why the budget reflects this difference, and will continue to update as we learn more information.
Level of Service
Overall, relatively few city departments are currently allocated a budget that the Mayor’s Office deems will allow them to maintain current levels of service. That gap widens under their projections if a pension deal is not reached. Even with the smaller gaps, however, we continue to dig in to what services you will ultimately lose to balance the budget.
While we are still combing through all the details, this remains a proposal that’s very early in the game. The Mayor’s Office is required to file this proposal by this date, but there are a lot of number that will be changing as we move closer to when his final proposal is due and, ultimately, when the final budget is decided.
WOKV will continue to bring you the latest in this process to see how your tax dollars will be spent, and what it will mean in terms of services for you.