Jacksonville, FL - Jacksonville’s City Council is set for a final vote on whether to spend more than $14 million of your tax dollars now to save more than $70 million long term.
The council will vote Tuesday night on whether to buy the Jake Godbold building downtown, which they currently lease from the Police and Fire Pension Fund. The lease began in FY 2008/09 and will extend for another 40 years under current terms. By the end of that, the city will have paid more than $98 million, according to the Council Auditor’s Office.
“Do I like the idea of taking on additional debt? No. But in the long run, we’re gunna save,” says City Councilman and bill co-sponsor John Crescimbeni.
Buying the building outright is an option that’s only open for a short time every four years. If the city doesn’t purchase the building during the current window, the purchase price will raise more than one million dollars in 2017.
“The lease was a bad deal from the outset, it’s still a bad deal,” says Council Vice President and bill sponsor Bill Guilliford.
Gulliford says the annual payment would still be the same as what we’re paying for a lease payment now, but the building would be completely paid off in just over 13 years and would be city owned at that time. Continuing the lease would be another 40 years commitment, and at the end the city would still not own the building.
I asked Crescimbeni whether the city needed to own yet another building, especially at a cost of more than $14 million.
“We’re stuck with this building whether we like it or not,” he says.
Crescimbeni says there’s no good way to get out of the lease entirely and let the PFPF do what they would like with it, so buying it is the best of the two options at hand. He says once it is city-owned, we can then reassess whether it should stay in the city’s hands, but that’s flexibility we do not have when simply leasing it.
The bill requires a 2/3 vote from City Council at its meeting Tuesday night not just a simple majority because it requires an amendment to the Capitol Improvement Projects.