ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
73°
Partly Cloudy
H 73° L 63°
  • cloudy-day
    73°
    Current Conditions
    Partly Cloudy. H 73° L 63°
  • cloudy-day
    66°
    Evening
    Partly Cloudy. H 73° L 63°
  • rain-day
    64°
    Morning
    Rain. H 68° L 63°
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 Texas state trooper is suing 18 different Department of Public Safety officials a second time, alleging that they retaliated against him after he sued them the first time and that documents about him were tampered with. >> Read more trending news Trooper Billy Spears was reprimanded in the spring of 2015 for taking a photo with rapper Snoop Dogg. Spears was reprimanded because the rapper has several drug-possession convictions and DPS policies prohibit troopers from associating with known criminals. Spears filed suit against his bosses soon after he was reprimanded. Shortly after, Spears went on medical leave for a knee injury. While still on leave, high-ranking DPS personnel accused him of not being in compliance with DPS’s physical fitness policies, which Spears’s lawsuit alleges was a retaliatory attempt to get him fired. DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said the allegations in the lawsuit are incorrect. >> Related: Texas Trooper to receive counseling for posing in picture with Snoop Dogg “The department looks forward to refuting these spurious claims through the proper legal proceedings,” said Vinger, who declined to comment further. Spears was on medical leave from May 26, 2016, to Dec. 17, 2016, his lawsuit says. On Sept. 1, 2016, he was warned he was on the verge of being terminated because he had failed to take and pass physical fitness tests during that time. Spears’s lawsuit says he requested a medical waiver for the test and hadn’t been aware it had been denied.  >> Related: Punishment to trooper who posed with Snoop Dogg is 'one-time coaching' opportunity agency says Spears requested his waiver form, and the lawsuit alleges that the memo Spears wrote in May 2016 “had been altered and post-dated to June 2, 2016. The date alteration was significant because it created the false appearance that (Spears) had not submitted his memo before the May 31, 2016 deadline.” Spears is seeking unspecified damages and a jury trial.
  • It's not to early to start planning your trips to the best Christmas light displays in the greater Jacksonville area and all of Northeast Florida. Jax Illuminations Located at the Morocco Shrine Center, spectators are treated to a drive-thru holiday light display that features over half a million LED lights that are synchronized to holiday music. Jax Illuminations is open nightly 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. from Nov. 17- Dec. 31. Ticket prices are: $20 for cars/trucks/and mini vans and $35 for passenger vans. Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens ZOOLights Thousands of LED lights throughout the zoo will be featured in moving sculptures, forests of lighted trees and animal silhouettes. ZOOLights runs from 6 pm. to 9 p.m. Sunday - Thursday and  6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday & Saturday, Dec. 8 -10 & Dec. 15 - Jan. 6 (Closed Christmas Day). Tickets are $10 for non-members and $8 for zoo members. Downtown Dazzle: An Illumination Celebration The offices of the Jacksonville Children's Chorus at 225 E. Duval Street will be illuminated with a holiday light display synchronized to recorded songs of the season broadcast on 94.5 FM. The lights will be on display nightly from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Nov. 24-Dec. 31. Christmas lights at Blackhawk Bluff The Blackhawk Bluff neighborhood off Girvin Road is considered one of the best places to see Christmas lights in Jacksonville. They've been lighting up the trees for at least 15 years. The neighborhood is located off Girvin Road and Blackhawk Trail South. Jacksonville Beach Deck the Chairs The annual lighted sculptural exhibit decorates the iconic chairs of The American Red Cross Life Saving Corps at the Seawalk Pavilion and Latham Plaza. The displays are up from Nov. 24-Jan. 1. Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park The park's Festival of Lights has grown over the years and has been named a Top 20 Event in the Southeast United States for almost a decade. For more information on times, dates and ticket prices, click here . St. Augustine's Nights of Lights The 24th Annual Nights of Lights dazzles the city as some three million lights adorn every corner of the historic district for two months. This award-winning holiday lights display runs from November 18, 2017, to January 31, 2018, in historic St. Augustine. Viewer-submitted suggestions: Christmas on Crystal Springs This award-winning display located on Crystal Springs Drive is a favorite around Jacksonville and does its display in a big way. Runs from November 23, 2017 to January 1, 2018, Sunday - Thursday, 6:30pm to 10:00pm and Friday - Saturday, 6:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.  Gierlich Holiday Wonderland A Gierlich Christmas Wonderland is a light display located in Interlachen. In addition to Christmas, Gierlich displays lights for both Halloween and Christmas and a small one for Easter. The displays all consist of lights, blow molds and inflatables. The display is located on Fowler Street in Interlachen. Santa's Lights, St. Marys, Ga. Tom Chapman said he and his family and have setting up their display for years and they collect donations to help Camden House , a shelter for victims of domestic violence. Chapman said this will be the first year that every one of their nearly-100,000 bulbs will be LED and it will only take about 900 watts to run the entire display. Santa's Lights is located on East Dillingham Street in St. Marys and the light display will kick off November 28. Action News Jax put all of these locations into a map for your convenience. If you see any locations we should add to the map, just email us at web@actionnewsjax.com !
  • President Donald Trump escalated his feud with NBA personality LaVar Ball in a pair of tweets Wednesday, calling Ball an “ungrateful fool” and taking full credit for getting Ball’s son and two of his UCLA basketball teammates back to the U.S. after the trio was accused of shoplifting in China. >> Read more trending news “It wasn’t the White House, it wasn’t the State Department, it wasn’t father LaVar’s so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of a long term prison sentence - IT WAS ME,” the president wrote in a tweet posted around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday. “Remember LaVar, shoplifting is NOT a little thing. It’s a really big deal, especially in China. Ungrateful fool!” Trump and Ball have engaged in a verbal back-and-forth since the president took credit for freeing Ball’s son, LiAngelo, and two of his teammates, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, from a Chinese jail earlier this month. The trio was facing shoplifting charges and as many as 10 years in China’s prison system. >> Related: WATCH: LaVar Ball fires back at Trump in heated CNN interview LiAngelo Ball, Riley and Hill were released and allowed to return to the United States last week after Trump said he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping on their behalf. “The basketball players, by the way — I know a lot of people are asking — I will tell you, when I heard about it two days ago, I had a great conversation with President Xi,” Trump said, according to The Washington Post. “What they did was unfortunate. You know, you’re talking about very long prison sentences. (The Chinese) do not play games.” >> Related: Trump again lashes out at UCLA basketball dad LaVar Ball: 'Very ungrateful!' LiAngelo Ball, Riley and Hill thanked their fellow teammates, school officials and the U.S. government, including Trump, for the work they did to bring them back to the U.S. LaVar Ball, however, said in an interview Monday with CNN that he wouldn’t thank Trump. 'Did he help the boys get out? I don't know,” LaVar Ball said. “If I was going to thank somebody I'd probably thank President Xi (Jinping). ... It wasn't like he was in the US and said, 'OK, there's three kids in China. I need to go over and get them.' That wasn't the thought process.” >> Related: Trump fires back after LaVar Ball minimizes role in getting UCLA players released LaVar Ball told CNN that he felt if Trump helped to free his son, the president shouldn’t have felt like he needed recognition. “If you helped you shouldn't have to say anything,” LaVar Ball said. “If I help somebody, I don't walk around saying, you know, ‘I helped you now, come on now, you give me some love, I helped you.’ Come on, for real?” “Just think LaVar, you could have spent the next 5 to 10 years during Thanksgiving with your son in China, but no NBA contract to support you,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday. The Palm Beach Post contributed to this report.
  • On Wednesday family friends and Nassau County law-enforcement gather to honor fallen Nassau County deputy Eric Oliver on the anniversary of his death. Oliver was hit and killed by a vehicle while chasing a suspect across State Road 200 on November 22, 2016. The Nassau County sheriffs office unveiled a memorial Wednesday at the gate gas station where the foot chase began.  Oliver has been recognized locally and nationally. His family told Action News Jax the community support has helped them grieve.  'It'll be there forever and I think it just represents the lawn enforcement in the community and the sacrifice they make,' Deputy Oliver's mother Sharon says of the memorial. 
  • Christina Aguilera delivered a tribute to the late Whitney Houston that only a vocalist of her caliber could do. >> Read more trending news At Sunday night’s American Music Awards, Aguilera celebrated the 25th anniversary of Houston’s blockbuster movie “The Bodyguard” and its top-selling soundtrack. Related: Christina Aguilera to pay tribute to Whitney Houston, ‘The Bodyguard’ at AMAs Beginning her set in a black pantsuit and a singular spotlight, Aguilera sang the a capella opening of “I Will Always Love You,” transitioning to the big note before going into “I Have Nothing,” followed by “Run to You,” a song Houston herself has praised Aguilera for singing. Related: Christina Aguilera to pay tribute to Whitney Houston, ‘The Bodyguard’ at AMAs Assisted by a choir, Aguilera ended her tribute with “I’m Every Woman” recieving a standing ovation. Watch the full performance below.

The Latest News Videos