ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
70°
Broken Clouds
H 74° L 61°
  • cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
    70°
    Current Conditions
    Mostly Cloudy. H 74° L 61°
  • cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
    63°
    Morning
    Mostly Cloudy. H 74° L 61°
  • cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
    74°
    Afternoon
    Cloudy. H 77° L 62°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

News
Questions on budget balance push off decision on your property tax rate
Close

Questions on budget balance push off decision on your property tax rate

Questions on budget balance push off decision on your property tax rate
Photo Credit: Stephanie Brown

Questions on budget balance push off decision on your property tax rate

Jacksonville’s Finance Committee says there’s not enough information yet available to decide what property tax rate you should pay next year.

During a special meeting this morning, the committee was set to recommend whether there should be a preliminary hike in the property tax rate allowed. The decision must be made by August 4th so the Property Appraiser’s Office has enough time to send out notices to property owners about any potential change.

Instead, the committee decided they needed more information about the budget in front of them.

“We need to find exactly who’s going to tell us if this is a balanced budget,” says Finance Chair Richard Clark.

Council members argued today that the budget proposal presented by the Mayor does not appear to be balanced. The Council Auditor says the budgeted pension contribution for police and fire is about $11 million short.  He also believes the amount of reserve funding used by the Mayor is too large when considering the amount the City is legally required to have on-hand.

“Is it even lawful to use the reserve account which is baked in to this budget of $16 million dollars? Why is that in there, why are we using that money,” says Council President Clay Yarborough.

That discussion led to questions on how the Council could determine if the budget was balanced and what options they have if it is not. The Office of General Counsel said it would need time to make that determination- and the committee wants to grant that time.

The OGC previously issued a legal opinion allowing the use of reserve funding. The budget can only spend “current year” funding, and the legal opinion states that because this is just a proposal, and all the funding is subject to the final vote, using the funding sources listed from the Mayor would mean they would be “current year” at the time of the adoption.

A bill dealing with the preliminary tax rate the council could set was expected to come for a vote Tuesday night.  Clark told the Council the committee wants to delay the overall vote, however, and he was granted that time. A new meeting was scheduled for August 4th, which is also the day the decision is due.  The rate set by Council would not be the guaranteed final rate, but rather the maximum they would be able to increase the rate as part of the ongoing budget talks.

The committee members want the more comprehensive view of the budget in order to decide if there is any hole. If that exists, they would have to figure out how to plug it.  Clark says he does not support any tax rate increase that would be used to offset expenses. Councilman Bill Gulliford further said during the meeting that the budget has a “spending problem”, and that will be where the Council needs to look to balance the budget.

“It’s just sad for our city that we have to get citizens very excited for projects, and then we have to come back within a month or two and say ‘well, that’s not the top priority this year’,” Yarborough says.

Clark says a tax rate increase can’t be entirely ruled out, however, because there are some long term needs the Council needs to look at. He says pending pension reform legislation requires an annual $40 million contribution from the City over what is already paid toward benefits.

“This is our single biggest issue the city’s probably ever faced,” he says.

He says the City’s need to help fund projects at JAXPORT will also require a long term spending plan. While the Mayor has appointed committees to work on both of those funding questions, Clark and Gulliford would both support using a sales tax.

“I believe the broad base is a much better use than always going after a property owner,” Clark says.

A sales tax increase would trigger a decline in the property tax rate, and it would also apply to people traveling through and visiting Jacksonville instead of just current property owners.

Overall, many on the committee were frustrated at other portions of the budget, and question whether there’s any legislative change they can make to prevent these questions from coming back. Last year, the Mayor’s proposal included multi-million dollar holes in some departmental budgets. While Council enacted some change to prevent that from happening again, many now feel there are just different technical issues, like the use of some one-time funding.

Councilman John Crescimbeni plans at least one other legislative change he hopes will smooth out the process moving forward.

“I’m going to introduce legislation to require the municipal budget be introduced to us on July 1,” he says.

One of the concerns from the Council Auditor is that his office is still working through the budget proposal, and it’s that preliminary information the Council is using to make decisions- like what your tax rate could be.

Given all of these concerns, I circled back with the Mayor’s Office, which says they still support the proposal and believe it is balanced as required by law.  In a statement, Chief of Staff Chris Hand says they are within the law to use reserve funding and feel that is an important source to tap this year in order to keep economic growth moving forward.

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

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

The Latest News Headlines

  • A 6-year-old boy is said to be in serious condition, after nearly drowning in the Bartram Springs community pool, just off Racetrack Road, near Philips Highway.   According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, the child was with his family and lifeguards were on duty.   '[He] had some type of a condition, was observed under the water, was pulled out of the water, basic life support was initiated on the child,' explains a JSO officer.   The boy was rushed to Baptist South and eventually transferred to Wolfson Children's Hospital.
  • A Texas couple was charged with child endangerment Thursday after a woman told Harris County sheriff’s deputies that she found their 8-week-old child in the middle of a parking lot, according to multiple reports. >> Read more trending news A woman called police Tuesday night after finding the baby boy strapped to a car seat in a parking space in a Katy strip mall, the Houston Chronicle reported. The child was cold and fussy by the time the woman who called police, Dee Griffin-Stevens, found him, according to KHOU. “I just pictured my own children when they were that little,” she told the news station. “I call him ‘baby love,’ because I don’t know his name and probably won’t ever know his name, but I loved him and took care of him.” Authorities estimated that the child was left for at least 45 minutes before he was found. An employee at a nearby pizzeria recognized the infant and called his parents, according to KHOU.  Deputies arrested Sarah Shibley, 33, and Gary Collins, 39, on charges of child endangerment. “Shibley, who works at the pizzeria, said she left the child in the parking lot where she works and thought his father placed him in a car,” KHOU reported. Shilbey was released on $2,000 bond, according to the Chronicle. Collins remained jailed Friday.
  • An Oklahoma company is recalling nearly 1 million pounds of breaded chicken products sold nationwide after customers complained of finding “metal objects” in the food. >> Read more trending news About 933,300 pounds of OK Food Inc. breaded chicken products fall under the recall, according to a notice issued Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The chicken was sold under various brand names, including Wal-Mart’s Great Value store brand. The products were also sold to institutions across the country.  >> See the full list of recalled OK Food Inc. chicken products The affected chicken products have establishment No. P-7092 in the USDA mark of inspection. The recall comes after five people complained of finding metal in OK Food Inc.’s chicken. Personnel with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service also found metal in the products. OK Food Inc. determined that the food was tainted by metal from a conveyor belt. No injuries or illnesses have been reported.
  • A Texas woman is recovering after a life-threatening ordeal in the Arizona desert. Texas college student Amber VanHecke, 24, ran out of gas on a sightseeing trip to the southern rim of the Grand Canyon on March 12. >> Read more trending news She was traveling by herself and told ABC News that she made a wrong turn based on directions from her GPS. She ended up in the middle of nowhere and making matters worse she couldn’t get cellphone reception.  But she was prepared because she had traveled alone before. 'I planned out my itinerary, had it posted on Facebook and stuff and off I went with some non-perishables and water,' ABC News reported. As one day turned into two, she started writing messages on notebook paper and created a “help” sign out of rocks. It wasn’t until the fourth day that she decided to start walking to try and get a signal for her cellphone. She managed to talk to a 911 operator briefly before she lost the call, but it was long enough.  An air rescue crew from the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office was sent to look for her. The crew found her car and a note she had left explaining that she had started walking east, media outlets reported. They also spotted her “help” sign from the air. They eventually located her based on all the clues she left behind. The Arizona Department of Public Safety said in a statement Wednesday on its website that VanHecke had run out of food and was almost out of water when she was found on March 17, five days after her ordeal began. 'When she left the vehicle, she left notes so we knew where to find her. She did everything right,' trooper paramedic Eddie Bissonette said. 'She was treated at the scene for exposure, placed in the helicopter, and transported to the trauma center in Flagstaff,' according to the statement. VanHecke managed to stay positive about the harrowing experience, posting about her ordeal on Facebook. “I must be Irish because the luck was definitely with me today to get found.”  
  • One 24-year-old man is dead; another is behind bars.   The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has announced the arrest of 24-year-old Toray Ricketts, after a deadly, overnight shooting outside the Suite nightclub at the St. Johns Town Center.   According to JSO, there was some sort of verbal argument that turned physical, with Ricketts and the victim, Sina Sharifai, both ending up on the ground.   'At that point, that's when Ricketts pulled a handgun from his waistline and fired two shots, striking Mr. Sharifai,' explains a JSO official.   Sharifai was rushed to the hospital, but later died from his injuries.   Ricketts was eventually arrested without incident and is now charged with second-degree murder, as well as carrying a concealed firearm without a permit.

The Latest News Videos