Jacksonville, FL - Jacksonville’s Chief Financial Officer is speaking out to WOKV for the first time about the potential gap facing the city during this year’s budget cycle, saying he’s not too concerned about finding the balance.
“I wanna say that we’re gunna get this done- we’ve got to,” says CFO Ronnie Belton.
Belton says the city has faced multi-million dollar deficits before, ones larger than the projected $18.9 million the city would have to make up if a pension reform deal with the city and police and firefighters is passed. Without a deal, however, that figure balloons to $64 million.
“An $18 million hole versus a $64 million hole is a lot easier to deal with,” he says.
While he wouldn’t go in to many specifics about exactly how the gap would be filled, he says controlling expenses is key. The biggest expenses they are working on is the pension cost, police and fire alone growing from $121 million for the current budget year to $150 million next year.
“Communities are suffering from this lack of paying attention to the real cost of pensions,” he says.
One way to make up the gap was definitively rules out, however.
“No new taxes. No increase in taxes, no increase in fees- that’s what we’re always talked about and that’s how it always will be,” Belton says.
The final proposal out of the Mayor’s Office is due in roughly five weeks. Right now, the finance office continues to examine scenarios both including pension reform and without it. The deal struck between the City, Police and Fire Pension Fund, Fraternal Order of Police and Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters is up for a public hearing at Jacksonville’s City Council meeting Tuesday.