cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
Few Clouds
H 87° L 64°
  • cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
    Current Conditions
    Sunny. H 87° L 64°
  • clear-day Created with Sketch.
    Sunny. H 87° L 64°
  • cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
    Partly Cloudy. H 88° L 66°

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00


The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00


The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

Millions in new spending requested for upcoming Jacksonville budget

Millions in new spending requested for upcoming Jacksonville budget

Millions in new spending requested for upcoming Jacksonville budget
Jacksonville City Hall

Millions in new spending requested for upcoming Jacksonville budget

In just about two weeks, Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown will present his recommendation for the City’s budget, which topped one billion dollars this fiscal year.  But for the past three months, a special committee created under Jacksonville’s City Council has been working on where to find savings in that price tag.

And while there are some options for new efficiencies, there are also needs for big spending.

WOKV spoke with the Chair of the Special Budget Analysis Committee Final Report and new Council President Clay Yarborough for your first look in to this report.

Potential Savings

Many of the recommendations on financial savings come from unused inventory in the City that could be sold or put to a better use, according to the committee.

One option currently being discussed between the Budget Officer and Mosquito Control is selling unused aircraft and the site where the planes are stored. There is no estimate given on how much this could save.

The amount of vacant or underutilized real estate in Jacksonville is also back in the spotlight.  Public Works says of the 2,547 properties owned by the City of Jacksonville, 391 are mostly unused and have a high potential for better use. 

“Do we sell then and put that money in to the City, or if there’s a building on them do we utilize that and rent the space out,” says Committee Chair Clay Yarborough

The process for determining how best to manage this property is still ongoing.

The Jacksonville Public Library system is offering both savings and expenses for the upcoming budget.  The main savings would be generated by closing the Maxville Branch because of underutilization. That would save about $93,520.

Potential Expenses

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue identified nearly a dozen future challenges. Those directly tied to funding include replacing equipment, adding four new stations in quick growing areas and identifying alternative water supply sources for areas that don’t have easy hydrant access.  They’re also working on reducing response times- the Fire Chief told the committee it currently takes between 9 and more than 20 minutes to respond, and they hope to cut that to 8-12 minutes.

“It basically becomes we can still put this [new population] on the stations that are already there, but we’re going to have longer response times and greater needs,” Yarborough says.

Another funding concern is staffing that’s tied to grants which will eventually run out. The Committee is specifically concerned about a $5 million grant that is dated.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has already informed the Committee it intends to ask for an additional $8 million to hire 40 police officers and 40 community service officers.  Sheriff John Rutherford told the Committee there are fewer officers per citizen in Jacksonville than in many other large cities and that more people are needed to help combat a rise in crime.  Rutherford says a firing range also needs significant repairs, with one trailer uninhabitable because of black mold.

The Department of Corrections has actually seen a decline in recidivism as a result of prevention and intervention programs.  The Director told the Committee, however, that the rising cost of prescription medication is a future challenge, along with protocols for infectious disease control and the aging inmate population.

The Council Auditor’s Office says it doesn’t have enough staff to do everything needed, and that the starting salaries are not enough to recruit and retail talent to the office.

Fleet Management tells the committee that vehicles and facilities are aging and in need of upgrades.  They’re expected to submit a detailed list of needs to the Public Works Department.

Equipment is also a chief concern for Public Works overall. The department told the Committee that some of their mechanical equipment is down for months at a time and is expensive to maintain.  They also cite a need to expand operations in some areas.

“We need to make sure we are justifying every expense, and that we are only spending in those areas where we absolutely have to in order to fund core city services,” Yarborough says.

In addition to the above-mentioned savings opportunity, the Jacksonville Public Library system has a list of potential expenses needed in the upcoming budget. Among those are more money for weekly service hours, more access in Northeast Jacksonville at $250,000, renovation at the Beaches Branch at $2,054,930, automated dispensers at $930,000 and more.  JPL says it has $5.3 million in capital maintenance needs which have been deferred at 21 locations, and also needs more security funding. 

JPL is also looking to expand in Oceanway. While they have requested $500,000 to buy land, Yarborough says this is an opportunity to “think outside the box” and consider some of the land that’s already on City rolls and sitting vacant.

Security funding is also a request from the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department.  They’re asking for staffing and community mapping to help keep parks safe. Further, the department told the committee there is a greater need for athletic facilities, especially along with the increased effort to secure new sporting events.

Opportunities for efficiencies

Fee collection is a concern, according to the Finance Department.  The Committee recommends the City reassess its work with outside vendors in collecting some fees that currently lag or go unrecovered.  The report cites ambulance fee collection as a specific problem- with fees sometimes taking up to two years to bring in.

The Public Parking Division has also seen a shortfall of about $100,000 this year. The division believes that is the result of a lack of downtown development and uncollected citations.  The Committee recommends the City look at funding for upgraded parking meters and creating a parking meter sensor phone app.  To address the need to more events downtown, the Committee recommends looking at creating a Florida Sports Hall of Fame.

Overall budget conclusions

It’s not expected there will be any significant savings from refinancing this year because of refinancing last year, which saved several million dollars.

There has been an increase in property value in Duval County this year, according to preliminary findings from the Property Appraiser’s Office. This could create additional money for the general fund if the City holds the tax rate the same as what you’re paying this year.

“That puts us in a better position for the coming year,” Yarborough says.

The final rate will be set by City Council as part of the budget talks, but the current outline is being created under the assumption that the rate will stay the same.  Holding the rate steady with the increasing property values means your property tax payout would ultimately be more money.

The ongoing pension debate also remains a big question mark. There is legislation pending in front of the Council detailing the latest reform plan crafted by the Mayor’s Office and Police and Fire Pension Fund.  If this is enacted before the final budget is approved, it could mean big savings. Without reform, the pension cost will continue to climb.

Read More

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

The Latest News Headlines

  • It's about being 'scam smart'.   Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater's Department of Financial Services, along with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, are hosting a series of workshops to help seniors, their families, and their caregivers avoid being ripped off.   The workshops, which are part of the Operation S.A.F.E. (Stop Adult Financial Exploitation) initiative, will teach attendees how to identify scams targeting the senior community, as well as receive tips on ways they can protect themselves.   The Director of the Division of Consumer Services in the Department of Financial Services says the workshops will cover a wide variety of potential scams.   Tasha Carter says, 'Many times the frauds and scams targeting seniors are related to telemarketing scams, sweepstakes scams, lottery scams, and even one of the bigger ones that have become more popular over the last several years, the romance scam.'   If you're interested in attending, the 'Be Scam Smart' Workshops are being held at the following locations and times:  - Wednesday, March 29, 2017  10:45 am to 12:15 pm  Wallace Small Senior Center  1083 Line Street  Jacksonville, FL 32209   -Thursday, March 30, 2017  10:00 am to 11:30 am  Frances Padgett Arlington Senior Center  1078 Rogero Road  Jacksonville, FL 32211   To register or request a workshop, you can visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com/SAFE or call 1-877-MY-FL-CFO.
  • A woman has a warning for people who use the changing rooms at a Robinson Township, Pennsylvania, mall. Heather Lapinski said that while she was trying on bathing suits at Macy’s in the Mall at Robinson, she noticed a cellphone under the door. She grabbed it, but a man’s hand grabbed it back.  >> Read more trending news By the time she was able to exit the dressing room, the man was gone. “I got ahold of it and a man's hand came down and grabbed it. I couldn’t scream. I was in so much shock,” Lapinski said. “I was crying. I didn't have my top on (and) I’m not running out completely naked.” By the time she was able to exit the dressing room, the man was gone. Lapinski described the man as having a medium build and balding in the front of his head. She said she hopes that someone recognizes the man before he does it again. “I want someone to say, ‘I know him.’ He can't keep going back and keep doing this to women. I’m going to be traumatized for the rest of my life,” she said. “When I go to bed, I toss and turn thinking about his face.” Both Macy’s and the Mall at Robinson said in statements about the matter that the safety of customers is a top priority. They could not confirm whether other incidents were previously reported.
  • When a teenager in Texas borrowed a family friend's computer, he made a shocking and sickening discovery. The boy found nude photos of his 10-year-old sister on the computer of Joe Garza Jr., according to the Star-Telegram. >> Read more trending news Garza, 65, was arrested March 3 on child pornography charges, and faces additional charges after it was discovered that he allegedly molested an older sister in the family years ago. The Star-Telegram reports that the boy, who was trying to fix the hard drive on his own computer, asked to borrow Garza's computer. While using it, he clicked on a folder and discovered the images of his sister. He returned the computer to Garza and told his mother about the images. She asked the boy to request to use the computer again so she could see the images for herself. The mother confronted Garza about the images and police were called to the scene. Officer Domingo Martinez, who works for the Fort Worth Police Department’s Crimes Against Children Task Force, told the Star-Telegram that Garza admitted to the mother that he had a problem and said he would disappear if she didn't call police. In interviews with authorities, the 10-year-old victim said Garza bought her items and gave her money, and told her not to tell her parents about the abuse.  Garza remains behind bars while investigators work to determine if there are additional victims.
  • A suspicious odor on a Duval County school bus leads the driver to pull over, ultimately leading to that driver and seven children being taken to the hospital. The Duval County School District says the bus was transporting 16 students from Grasp Academy and Fort Carolina Middle School when the odor was detected. The driver pulled over in the Hogan’s Creek area and contacted dispatch.  Jacksonville Fire and Rescue transported seven children and the driver to the hospital as a precaution, but all are said to be in good condition.  JFRD suspected carbon monoxide, but when they tested there was nothing abnormal at the scene. DCPS says they believe a general cleaning product used to wipe down bus seats may have caused the children to feel ill.
  • A North Carolina county could be in major violation of HIPPA laws after mistakenly releasing hundreds of patients’ private medical records to a Charlotte TV station that was investigating a medical story. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA, was enacted in 1996 to ensure patient privacy rights. >> Read more trending news Mecklenburg County manager Dena Diorio revealed Tuesday afternoon that the county mistakenly released the private medical records of some 1,200 patients to the media. The county attorney confirmed patient health information was compromised.  'I'm absolutely speechless with anger at how something like this could happen,' Diorio said. Channel 9 had requested public records related to the county's failure to notify nearly 200 women about abnormal Pap smear results.  While WSOC-TV received that information Monday, the county also mistakenly included detailed medical history about hundreds of patients. The information included an Excel spreadsheets documenting the patients’ full names, addresses and dates of visits.  For some patients it also included a detailed description of why they visited and what services they received. Diorio said the information should not have been in spreadsheets in the email and the practice of putting medical information in Excel sheets will end immediately. Diorio said she believes the release is a category 2 HIPAA violation with a minimum fine of $1,000 per violation up to $50,000. A county worker collected the records Tuesday morning from WSOC.  “We do everything we can to protect the personal information for all of our patients,” Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio said. “In this particular instance, the checks and balances were not completely followed and we had a lapse.' Diorio said an IT staffer mistakenly included the information in the public records request. She also said no one checked the file before it was released. >> Got a question about the news? See our explainers here “This was a person who works in our IT security area so it’s not as if everybody has access to this information,” she said. It’s unclear if the hundreds of patients will be notified about the information leak. Diorio is planning to discuss the next steps with the county attorney on Tuesday.   >> Click here to read the full story.

The Latest News Videos