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Jacksonville City Council approves $1.2 billion City budget
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Jacksonville City Council approves $1.2 billion City budget

Jacksonville City Council approves $1.2 billion City budget

Jacksonville City Council approves $1.2 billion City budget

From the outset of Jacksonville’s budget process weeks ago, City leaders have said their priority continues to be public safety.

Just ahead of Tuesday night’s final vote approving that $1.2 billion spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, the City Council put an exclamation point on that priority, by adding even more funding toward a new program trying to stop violence at the community level. 

The Council approved a bill to take $64,550 from leftover Council Contingency funds, to use toward the “Stop the Violence” small grant program. This is run under the Kids Hope Alliance, and allows small community organizations and faith-based groups to apply for grants of up to $10,000 for anti-violence efforts. The program is designed to better empower those who are already on the ground and entrenched in communities that are dealing with crime. 

“We feel really strongly that allowing grassroots organizations- particularly if they’re small churches or community-based organizations- opportunity to get funding is unprecedented for the City. And it gives us tremendous opportunity to leverage these groups that are working with our young children and provide them with resources to continue to do that in a material way, and we think that’s going to have a tremendous impact on reducing violence in some of our at-hope neighborhoods,” says KHA CEO Joe Peppers.

That $64,550 is being added to another $350,000 that is being put toward that program under the City’s budget- $50,000 as part of KHA’s annual budget and $300,000 that the Council Finance Committee is committing, out of funds that were discovered through the budget review process. When combined with $50,000 committed by Mayor Lenny Curry, from executive reserves, the program stands to have a total of $464,550 for the next fiscal year. 

“These grassroots organizations that provide these services, that’s who’s going to help us make a difference. These are the organizations that we often see crying out ‘let us help’. We’re giving them the opportunity to help us now, and I expect results of it,” says Councilman Reggie Gaffney, who was a driving force behind this program.

Peppers says they are still finalizing the exact process for distributing the grants, but he believes it will be a first-come first-served approach, with each grant award based on the merit of the program. He says there will be rigorous standards enforced to ensure the dollars are being used appropriately, in line with the other contracts they manage. He hopes to begin accepting applications by mid-next week, with funds being disbursed by mid- to late-October. They will continually review applications until all funds are exhausted.

That is just one portion of the overall City budget that’s now been approved unanimously by the 19-member Council, which WOKV has covered extensively through the last few weeks. 

IN DEPTH: Jacksonville’s City budget 

“City Council just passed my budget. It was unanimous. 4 for 4 unanimous. Together we have produced four budgets that demonstrate a commitment to public safety, supporting kids and families, investing in infrastructure, and economic development leading to job creation. There is always more work to do, but these four budgets have helped Jacksonville be positioned for a prosperous future,” tweeted Curry, following the Council’s vote.

On the anti-violence front, the budget also funds the startup of the “Real Time Crime Center”. This is an initiative that will bring different data lines and systems JSO has access to- from dispatch calls to ShotSpotter- to filter through a uniform system to better streamline information to first responders. That can then be synched with surveillance, footage, historical crime data, and more to provide a more comprehensive view of the scene, and can further track crime trends. 

Closely tied to public safety, an expansion of the opioid treatment pilot program is included, as is more than $42,000 for grief counseling, trauma care, and burial costs for children exposed to or victims or violent crime; $120,000 to bring housing assistance and mental health services to the Sulzbacher Center; $3 million to replace and upgrade City security cameras; more therapists in Duval Schools; and much more. 

To provide children and the community at large a safe place to spend some recreational time, this budget expands library hours, to ensure every branch is open at least six days a week, with some locations open all seven days. It also moves forward plans for an Oceanway library. 

Public Works is another big spend, from an increase in litter cleanup services, to an additional $360,000 vacuum truck to drain inlets and pipes.

There’s a large Capital Improvements Program, which includes everything from a Downtown dog park and repairs to historic African American cemeteries, to big investments in maintaining the Prime Osborn Convention Center. There is road paving, sidewalk repairs, bridge and dock work, and much more.

In the CIP, $3 million will start replacing portions of the Northbank bulkhead. This comes as the result of “growing” and “more problematic” bulkhead failures that have been taking place since Irma, as characterized by City Councilwoman Lori Boyer. 

$12.5 million for taking down the Hart Bridge ramps in Downtown is also included. WOKV has taken you in depth on the reason behind the project and other funding the City is still working to line up, but this portion matches $12.5 million from the Florida Department of Transportation, which keeps the project in motion. 

Both the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and UF Health are getting multi-year capital improvement plans. For the Zoo, it’s $25 million over five years- which will be annually matched with private donations- to implement their Master Plan. That includes new and upgraded exhibits, a more central entrance, an added attraction, and much more. UF Health will receive $120 million over six years to repairs, maintenance, and improvements on the City-owned buildings. 

The budget process further raised big questions the Council has looming in the future. 

A two-part WOKV investigation found the nonprofit running the Jacksonville Equestrian Center had some short-term funding problems to get through this fiscal year, and now faces an even bigger question on how it will be funded in the future because the trust fund that has been used for the last few years has run down. The City Council will have to consider other funding options in the future, as the nonprofit works to continue to turn around the venue to generate more revenue

One of the biggest questions that loomed over this budget process overall is a November ballot initiative on an additional homestead exemption. If voters pass the measure, it will mean a break for their property tax bill, but an estimated $27 million hole in next year’s City budget. Because of that, the Council highly scrutinized requests to boost anything that required recurring funding- they did not want to commit to funding that in the future, with that possible hole looming. 

Still another future question that was highlighted through the budget process is how the City will recoup the cost of JSO providing school security services at Duval County schools. A new state law requires enhanced security, but left it on districts to decide the exact program and fund the majority of that. JSO is supplementing DCPS, while they work to train a sufficient number of new hires to cover the demand- and it’s not yet clear when and how JSO will be repaid for that.

The budget did not raise the property tax rate, although with increasing property value you will likely see a higher property tax bill, even with the flat rate.

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The Latest News Headlines

  • In a move to make the job safer for bus operators, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority plans to install a protective shield in the last of its buses tomorrow. The JTA Board of Directors approved allocating about $600,000 to purchase the protective shields back in March, says JTA spokesman David Cawton. He says they’ve been working since summer to retrofit older buses so they could install the added protection on every bus in the fleet. “These shields protect about 75 percent of the bus operator while they are sitting in their chair, driving the bus,” says Cawton. He says there have been a few instances where bus operators in Jacksonville were attacked and it’s starting to be a national trend, so the Board decided to be proactive with the safety of the employees. The clear shields are retractable, which means the operators can choose to move them out of the way if they want interact with customers. But Cawton says they can quickly move them back in place if they have to.
  • Jimmy Carter’s pastor said the former president is “in good spirits” just one day after undergoing brain surgery. >> Read more trending news The Rev. Tony Lowden, pastor of Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia, was in Atlanta on Wednesday visiting Carter at Emory University Hospital. “His spirits are good, and he is up and walking,” Lowden said. Carter was admitted to the hospital on Monday to deal with bleeding near his brain, caused by a series of falls over the past few weeks. Carter was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma and was operated on early Tuesday morning to relieve pressure on his brain. A spokeswoman for Carter said there were no complications from the procedure, but wouldn’t give a timetable on his release. He “will remain in the hospital as long as advisable for observation,” said Deanna Congileo on Tuesday. Lowden drove to Atlanta on Wednesday with dozens of well wishes from the president’s boyhood home of Plains and his home church, Maranatha. “Everyone is praying and concerned about him and making sure that he is OK,” Lowden said. Young visited their church on Sunday to teach Sunday School with Carter. Lowden said he expects to field at least one question from Carter: When can he return to teaching Sunday School? Carter has been teaching Sunday School regularly at Maranatha for 40 years. After he broke his hip in May and fractured his pelvis in October, Carter missed both of his immediately scheduled classes, but quickly made them up the following Sundays. “I am going to tell him that we have everything in order at the church, and he doesn’t have to worry about anything,” Lowden said. “There is no need to rush.”
  • Some Capital One customers might see a delay in their paychecks Friday as the bank investigates a technical issue impacting direct deposits, company officials said. >> Read more trending news  Capital One representatives said in a tweet Friday morning that the bank was 'experiencing a technical issue impacting customer money movement, including direct deposits, and the ability for some customers to access accounts.' 'We are actively working to resolve the issue and restore all services,' company officials said. 'We greatly apologize for the inconvenience.' The issue was resolved around 3:10 p.m. EDT Friday. The technical issue is at least the second this week to affect Capital One customers. On Monday, bank customers reported issues with the Capital One mobile app and the bank's website. It was not immediately clear how long it would take to resolve the technical issue discovered Friday.
  • Sara Krauseneck was 3 years old the day her mother was found dead with an ax blade embedded in her skull. Now 41, Sara Krauseneck stood by her father’s side Friday as he walked into an upstate New York courtroom to face charges that he killed Cathleen Schlosser Krauseneck and left their then-toddler daughter to spend the day alone with her mother’s dead body. James Krauseneck Jr., 67, of Peoria, Arizona, is charged with second-degree murder in Cathleen Krauseneck’s Feb. 19, 1982, slaying. The 29-year-old wife and mother was found slain in the bedroom of the couple’s Brighton, New York, home. Cathleen Krauseneck’s sister, Annet Schlosser, told MSN via phone on Friday that the charges against her former brother-in-law were long-awaited by her family. “My family will see justice for Cathy, we hope,” Schlosser said. “We still have a way to go yet with the trial, but this is a huge step forward.” James Krauseneck pleaded not guilty during his arraignment Friday. He was released on $100,000 bail and was ordered to surrender his passport. “This is one of the worst outcomes of domestic violence that this agency has investigated,” Brighton Police Chief David Catholdi said at a news conference Tuesday morning. “And this was domestic violence.” >> Read more trending news Catholdi was surrounded by local, state and federal law enforcement officers, both active and retired, who worked on the 37-year-old homicide case. “Hundreds, if not thousands, of investigative hours went into this case over the last few decades,” Catholdi said. Ultimately, it was the assistance of renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden that led to the murder charge against James Krauseneck, who claimed he was at work when his wife was killed. Baden conducted a thorough review of the timeline of Cathleen Krauseneck’s death, the police chief said. “We believe in examining the timeline of events, speaking with witnesses and James’ timeline -- that he provided -- along with all other evidence, we will establish that James Krauseneck Jr. was home at the time of the murder,” Catholdi said. Baden, who briefly served as chief medical examiner for the City of New York in the late 1970s, chaired the forensic pathology panel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which probed both the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In the decades since then, he has testified in numerous high-profile cases -- often for the defense -- including the murder trials of former football great O.J. Simpson and record producer Phil Spector. Now a private forensic pathologist, Baden most recently spurred controversy for disputing the official claim that disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein hanged himself in his jail cell Aug. 10. Baden said multiple broken bones in Epstein’s neck pointed instead to manual strangulation. Jeremy Bell, a special agent with the FBI, said he hopes Friday’s charge against James Krauseneck brings some closure to the victim’s family, but also that it puts other suspected criminals on edge. “I hope it puts criminals everywhere on notice: Just because the years go by doesn’t mean you can stop looking over your shoulder,” Bell said. “We’re coming.” Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley thanked the Brighton officers in a Facebook statement for never giving up on solving the Krauseneck case.  “I want to thank the Brighton Police Department, who has worked with the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office since 1982, for never giving up on finding justice for Cathleen Krauseneck,” Doorley wrote. “We look forward to bringing this case through the criminal justice system and finally bringing justice to Cathleen, her friends and family.” A shocking crime  Catholdi said police officers responded to the Krauseneck home at 33 Del Rio Drive in Brighton around 5 p.m. Feb. 19, 1982, after a neighbor called 911. The officers were ultimately led into the master bedroom of the family’s home, where they found a grisly scene. Cathleen Krauseneck was dead, the victim of a single blow to the head with an ax. The blade of the wood-cutting tool, which was taken from the couple’s unlocked garage, was still embedded in her forehead. The handle of the ax had been wiped clean, testing would later show. “What followed was an extensive investigation that led Brighton police officers, Brighton investigators and Brighton chiefs of police across the United States to Mount Clemens, Michigan; Fort Collins, Colorado; Lynchburg, Virginia; Gig Harbor, Washington; and Houston, Texas,” Catholdi said. The Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester reported that James Krauseneck told police he found his wife dead when he came home from his job as an economist at Eastman Kodak Co. At the time, Cathleen Krauseneck’s estimated time of death could not be pinpointed to before or after 6:30 a.m., when James Krauseneck said he left for work. Krauseneck said his wife was asleep, but alive, when he left their home that morning, the Democrat & Chronicle reported. Investigators, who found a window broken from the outside, initially theorized that Cathleen Krauseneck was killed during a botched burglary, but nothing was reported stolen from the home. Along with the ax, a maul used for splitting wood was taken from the garage and, investigators theorized, was used to smash the window. Their investigation shifted, however, to the possibility of a domestic situation that turned deadly. The couple had been married since 1974, Catholdi said Tuesday. The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington, reported that the couple attended high school together but began dating as students at Western Michigan University. According to Cathleen Krauseneck’s family, the couple lived in Colorado and Virginia before settling in their home in Brighton, the News Tribune reported. The victim’s family told the newspaper the couple began having problems in Brighton after James Krauseneck, then 30 years old, was accused at work of lying about having earned a doctorate. He also reportedly told administrators at Lynchburg College, where he was an assistant professor of economics, that he had a doctorate, the Democrat & Chronicle reported in 2016. Cathleen Krauseneck had confronted her husband about the alleged lies, her family told authorities. Neighbors and friends also indicated there may have been domestic abuse in the couple’s relationship, according to police officials. The Democrat & Chronicle reported in 2017, when the former Krauseneck home went on the market, that Cathleen Krauseneck was not the first resident of the house to die there. In 1977, five years before the killing, homeowners Dr. Anthony Schifino and his wife, Estelle, died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The newspaper reported that the couple accidentally left their car running in the garage.  Authorities said James Krauseneck participated in a police interview the night his wife was found dead but failed to show up for a follow-up interview the next day. Investigators learned he had taken his daughter and moved to his Michigan hometown of Mount Clemens. Investigators went to Michigan to speak to James Krauseneck. The News Tribune reported that, although he agreed to have a child psychologist talk to his young daughter about what she may have witnessed, that appointment never took place. According to the Press & Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton, New York, Sara Krauseneck initially told police she saw a “bad man” in the room with her mother and said the man had a hammer. She was not allowed to speak to authorities again, however.  James Krauseneck also stopped cooperating with police, as did his family, authorities said. “They’re all reluctant to offer information,” a Brighton detective told The Macomb Daily in a 1985 article, according to the News Tribune. “It’s like Cathleen was murdered, taken off the face of the Earth, and no one wants to help.” James Krauseneck later moved to Gig Harbor, just outside of Tacoma. Investigators from Brighton spoke to him there in April 2016, the News Tribune reported. He retained attorneys in both Washington and New York at that time. Two days after detectives left Washington, James Krauseneck and his wife -- his fourth at that point -- put their home up for sale, the newspaper reported. The couple moved to Arizona after he retired as vice-president from what his attorneys described in a statement as a Fortune 500 company. James Krauseneck’s wife, Sharon Krauseneck, was also in court with him Friday. Watch the entire Brighton Police Department news conference below.  ‘Not a proverbial smoking gun’  Retired Brighton Police Chief Mark Henderson began taking a fresh look at the Krauseneck homicide case in 2015, Catholdi said Tuesday. Agents with the FBI’s Cold Case Working Group digitized the boxes of handwritten case notes and other evidence. “In 1982, there were not computers,” Henderson said Tuesday. “Our files, our paperwork was not digitized. One of the first things that the FBI did was to convert everything from handwritten paper to digital, searchable files.” Investigators had a theory, an “idea which way to go,” Henderson said. They met with Doorley, the district attorney, whose own investigators began looking into the case. “This path was over a number of years,” Henderson said. “When I heard that there was an arrest made, an indictment that was going to be unsealed on Friday, I knew that it would lead to the husband of the individual.” No one piece of evidence has led investigators to charge James Krauseneck, Catholdi said. “I understand people want a singular piece of evidence that can directly point to James Krauseneck Jr.,” Catholdi said. “This is not one of those cases.” The chief said the “totality of the circumstances,” along with the evidence and the timeline of events led to James Krauseneck’s arrest. FBI testing showed no DNA from anyone but James Krauseneck on any of the evidence gathered 37 years ago. “DNA, fingerprints, or the lack thereof, can speak volumes,” Catholdi said. “James lived at 33 Del Rio Drive, and one would suspect his DNA would be in his house. “It is telling no other physical evidence at the scene, to include DNA, points to anyone other than James Krauseneck Jr.” Catholdi said Baden’s timeline will be crucial to the case when it comes up for trial. “There’s not a proverbial smoking gun,” he said. “What really cinched the case was the fresh look at it.” James Krauseneck’s attorneys, Michael Wolford and William Easton, dispute there is any evidence linking their client to Cathleen Krauseneck’s murder. “Jim’s innocence was clear 37 years ago. It’s clear today,” the attorneys said in a written statement. “At the end of the case, I have no doubt Jim will be vindicated.” Wolford and Easton said James Krauseneck was cooperative with the investigation, “repeatedly giving statements to the police, consenting to the search of his home and his car.” Wolford, who represented Krauseneck at the time of the killing, said he placed “reasonable conditions” on further questioning once he realized his client was the target of the investigation. William Gargan, who heads the domestic violence unit for the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, countered the attorneys’ claims that their client cooperated with police. “I think the word ‘cooperation’ may have a different meaning for Mr. Wolford than it does for me and the Brighton Police Department,” Gargan said Tuesday. Gargan also disputed Wolford and Easton’s description of the prosecution, which they called “misguided” in their written statement. “I can tell you that there has been only one thing that DA Doorley, the Brighton Police Department and the town of Brighton have sought to do. And that is to seek the truth, wherever the facts, wherever the evidence may lead them,” Gargan said. ‘To have her die like that is so unfair’  Catholdi said Tuesday that following James Krauseneck’s arraignment, he, Henderson and other members of the investigative team called the victim’s family to tell them of the arrest. “They were grateful for our efforts and plan to attend the upcoming trial next year,” Catholdi said. Catholdi closed his comments with a statement that now-deceased Brighton Police Chief Eugene Shaw made to a newspaper in February 1983, days before the first anniversary of Cathleen Krauseneck’s death. “I’m not known to be a pessimist, so I’d say optimistically, hopefully, yes,” Shaw said when asked if the case would end in a successful prosecution. Catholdi expressed his own optimism about the outcome of a trial, which is tentatively slated for next summer. “Please know that the police across this region will never forget our victims,” Catholdi said. “These cases stay with us forever. “We know we are the only ones able to speak for victims. We will investigate cases like this as long as it takes, and we will use all of our investigative abilities to bring justice for victims and their families.” Henderson said Tuesday that the crime had a significant impact on the community, the Police Department and Shaw, who was never able to forget the unsolved case. “I know that the inability to bring this case forward really weighed heavily on Chief Shaw,” Henderson said. Henderson said he did not “reopen” the case in 2015 because it was never closed. Tips and prospective leads came in through the years and each was investigated, he said. In 2015, an FBI agent approached investigators about the FBI’s Cold Case Working Group, offering its services on any unsolved cases the department might have, Henderson said. Henderson said the department decided to start from “ground zero” on the case, working in conjunction with the FBI group. The retired chief said he met with the Schlosser family in 2015 at their home in Michigan. “I talked about the commitment that the town of Brighton was going to make to a fresh look at this case,” Henderson said. He and Brighton police Detective Mark Liberatore, the lead investigator on the case, sat across the dining room table from Cathleen Krauseneck’s parents, Robert and Theresa Schlosser. Theresa Schlosser has since died but Robert Schlosser, now 92, has lived to see an arrest made in his daughter’s killing.  “I assured them that we would be looking at this case, that we would commit every resource that we had in 2015 and 2016 … and that justice would be served for their daughter Cathleen,” Henderson said. Annet Schlosser watched the news conference Tuesday from her home in Warren, Michigan. She told the Press & Sun-Bulletin that her family initially thought James Krauseneck incapable of killing her older sister. His lack of cooperation with investigators made them think twice. “Why would a man ... not try to seek justice for his wife?” Schlosser said. “That never made sense to us. “It’s been 37 years. I would say that it was at least 20 years ago that we started to think he did it.” Schlosser told the newspaper James Krauseneck turned her niece against the Schlosser family, whose members have gone years without seeing Sara Krauseneck -- or her two children.  “They’re no longer part of our life, and that’s devastating to us,” she said. In 2016, Schlosser described her sister for the Democrat & Chronicle as her best friend, despite a 10-year age difference. “She was the most genuine, intelligent, loving person,” Schlosser said. “There isn’t a bad word that you can think about when describing my sister, and to have her die like that is so unfair.”
  • A 6-year-old suffered serious injuries Tuesday afternoon after being struck by a car shortly after getting off a school bus in Montana, according to multiple reports. >> Read more trending news  Montana Highway Patrol Capt. Chad Dever told MTN New the child was struck after a driver failed to stop for a school bus. The bus had its lights flashing and a stop sign up when the collision happened around 4:45 p.m. on U.S. Highway 93, MTN News reported. Trooper John Raymond told KECI-TV the car was traveling around 25 mph when it struck the child. The driver stayed on the scene after the collision, though Raymond told KECI-TV he or she was not arrested. Dever told MTN News charges against the driver were pending Wednesday. The child was taken to a hospital 'suffering from a traumatic brain injury,' Raymond told KECI-TV. 'Drivers need to be cautious of school buses,' he added. Authorities continue to investigate.

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