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Mayor pitching $1.2 billion budget: “Jacksonville is a city on the rise”
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Mayor pitching $1.2 billion budget: “Jacksonville is a city on the rise”

Mayor pitching $1.2 billion budget: “Jacksonville is a city on the rise”
Photo Credit: Stephanie Brown
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry presents his proposed 2018/2019 City budget to the Jacksonville City Council.

Mayor pitching $1.2 billion budget: “Jacksonville is a city on the rise”

It’s another public safety-first budget proposal from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, but there’s no shortage of spending on projects across the City pitched in the $1.2 billion plan. 

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is looking at a roughly $30 million boost, and Curry says that includes funding for a “real time crime center”. While there are not many details available about the center at this point, he says it would continue to build on some investments the City has already made, like ShotSpotter, which detects gunfire and alerts police. 



“Tools that prevent crime, and solve crimes that occur faster,” he says. 

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue is up $17 million under the budget proposal, including more fire stations and rescue units. 

“When we have call volumes in areas not served by rescues, they pull resources from other parts of the City, and it’s like a domino effect. As calls start firing off in this part that’s not serviced by rescues, it pulls from other areas. This fixes that problem,” says JFRD Chief Kurt Wilson. 

Wilson tells WOKV this budget would make some resources more flexible by also bringing back Arson Investigators. Currently, he says fire crews have to wait on scene while the State responds to investigate an arson. While the State would still have to be called in certain circumstances, Wilson says JFRD Arson Investigators could handle the initial assessment and determination of cause, while also providing the on-scene presence that then allows fire crews to leave and potentially respond if there is another incident somewhere. Wilson says this budget proposes hiring and outfitting three people for this, and they would join in two others JFRD currently has who provide support to the State investigation. 

Curry says investing in public safety also means investing in youth. 

“We must continue our work with young people, we must help them see there are possibilities that are larger than what they currently see or believe. We must break the cycle of violence and hopelessness,” he says. 

In addition to giving the Kid’s Hope Alliance a more than $41 million budget, Curry’s proposal would fund the City’s share of a partnership to bring more therapists to Duval County schools. 

He is planning for the City to put up $1.7 million toward adding 60 therapists, in a partnership with DCPS and the United Way of Northeast Florida. DCPS says this allotment would let them expand mental health resources to reach all students, with only about half currently served. This falls under the “Full Service Schools” initiative, according to DCPS, which also brings in other mental health and social service providers. DCPS says they have budgeted $2.6 million toward this, as a passthrough of state funds for mental health. 

“These additional therapists will dramatically increase the capacity for one-on-one and campus-wide opportunities for personal growth and positive mental health conversations,” Curry says. 


Curry’s budget proposal would also expand library hours, increase staff, allocate $850,000 for new materials, and designate $2.5 million to buy the land to get a new Oceanway library underway. Parks and Recreation would get more maintenance personnel and a budget to upgrade docks, boat launches, and many other public facilities, including Friendship Fountain. 

On the Capital projects side, Curry has laid out $161.4 million in spending. 

He’s earmarking millions for road resurfacing, sidewalk repairs and new sidewalks, improved pedestrian crossings, and drainage rehabilitation. Curry is also pitching a five year-$25 million match for the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, meaning $50 million over five years between the two entities for technology and other improvements. Another City facility getting an infusion would be UF Health- $120 million over six years. 

This budget launches new support for the Clara White Mission, allocating $1.5 million for that group’s Harvest Farms Project, which would include a farmer’s market, greenhouse, and educational facility. It also designates $10.8 million in funding for restoring African American cemeteries, which Curry says have been neglected to the point where they are in “shameful” condition. $60.3 million would be set aside for McCoy’s Creek and Emerald Necklace development. 

Downtown Jacksonville development is never forgotten in funding conversations, and Curry’s budget proposal aims for replenishing the Downtown Economic Development Fund with $2.5 million and adding some staff to the Downtown Investment Authority. He is also asking the City to commit to matching the State’s $12.5 million to take down the Hart Bridge ramps- a move he says would “unleash billions of dollars in economic development”. The aggregate $25 million would not fully fund the project, but Curry says they would start regardless, and he believes he would get the additional funding when it’s needed. 

“A vibrant urban core serves as a hub, pushing economic development outward to every neighborhood,” he says. 

Removing the ramps has become a priority in recent years, with Jaguars owner Shad Khans- who is currently in negotiations with the City on the redevelopment of the Jacksonville Shipyards- saying that the ramps are an obstacle to developing that area. Khan recently pitched a massive redevelopment plan of the greater Sports Complex area, and that also envisioned the ramps being down. 

Curry says when you consider the potential of those types of developments, along with the projects already underway like Berkman Plaza II, The District, and the Laura Street Trio, now is the time to act. 

“We see a growing, vibrant Downtown for Jacksonville is possible, and it is now within our reach,” he says. 

Despite all of this spending, Curry says there’s no need to raise your property tax rate. 

He proposed holding the rate flat, which is something the City Council gave early support to as well. You should still expect to see a step up in your property tax bill, though, because of the overall rise in property values and new construction. The Duval County Property Appraiser tells WOKV that they expect the government to get a $46.4 million increase in revenue for the fiscal year, because of the rising value. For the average homeowner, that equates to just under $150 more on your bill, according to Property Appraiser Jerry Holland. 

Curry says another important component is pension reform. 

“Without pension reform, and without the effort to provide a long-term solution, we would not have the ability to make any of these vital investments in our City. Public safety personnel, infrastructure improvements, programs for our kids- millions and millions of dollars would have been diverted away from making our city better,” Curry says. 

His office projects a $191 million savings in this proposed budget between what they’re paying since the reform plan passed and what they would have had to pay toward pension if change had not been achieved. 

Curry’s budget rollout is far from the last step in the process. The City Council Finance Committee and the Council Auditor will now comb through the proposal to check the numbers and decide if the priorities laid out by the Mayor are what the City should be funding. Curry says he’s had a good partnership with the Council in the past, and he’s expecting that to continue. 

“Jacksonville is a city on the rise, and if we keep doing the work, then the best is yet to come, always,” he says. 


The City Council must pass the final budget ahead of the start of the next fiscal year, October 1st. 

WOKV is working through the budget and gathering reactions from City Council members and other stakeholders. Stay with us as we gather more in the coming weeks.

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The Latest News Headlines

  • Police in Titusville, Florida, said a man was arrested after a 9-year-old girl was accidentally shot Saturday afternoon. >> Read more trending news  Police said Titusville resident Dustin Adkins, 34, was arrested and is now facing charges including aggravated child neglect with great bodily harm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Adkins is on probation for manslaughter involving the shooting death of a child, police said. The shooting occurred as four young juveniles were with an adult relative target shooting in the woods near State Road 407 and I-95, authorities said. Police said that at some point, the adult left the children unsupervised, and the 9-year-old girl was shot by a sibling accidentally while the sibling was shooting at a target. 'It is outrageous that this adult provided firearms and ammunition to these young children,' said Deputy Chief Todd Hutchinson. 'Especially given his past arrest and conviction.' Police said the family transported the child to the hospital. The child was critically injured and is in stable condition, officers said. After a lengthy search, officers found several firearms on a trail hidden under a disposed tire in the wooded area, officials said. No other details were made available.
  • An Arkansas officer was killed in a shooting outside the Fayetteville Police Department on Saturday night, authorities said. >> Read more trending news  Update, 11:22 a.m. EST Dec. 8: Fayetteville police Chief Mike Reynolds identified the officer who was shot and killed outside the Fayetteville Police Department on Saturday night and also identified the shooter, KFSM reported. Reynolds said Officer Stephen Carr was alone in the parking lot waiting for his partner when the suspect, London T. Phillips, 35, approached and fatally shot him, the television station reported. Original story: According to a Fayetteville police news release, the shooting occurred just after 9:40 p.m. in the parking lot behind the police station. Officers in the building heard gunfire and rushed outside to find their colleague down and the suspected shooter fleeing, the release said. Police then chased the suspect, who exchanged fire with officers in a nearby alley, KTHV reported. The suspect was shot, authorities said. The officer and suspect both died from their injuries, according to the news release. Officials have not released the name of the slain officer or suspected shooter. No further information was immediately available. Read more here or here.
  • A suspect died Friday morning after opening fire at Florida’s Naval Air Station Pensacola, killing at least three people and injuring seven others. >> Read more trending news  Authorities said the shooting was reported just before 7 a.m. local time in a classroom building at NAS Pensacola. Responding deputies with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office exchanged gunfire with the suspected shooter, killing him, officials said. Here are the latest updates: Update 3:42 p.m. EST Dec. 8: Officials are still trying to determine whether Ahmed Mohammed al-Shamrani acted alone or was part of a terrorist group Friday when he opened fire at Florida’s Naval Air Station Pensacola, The Washington Post reported. Rachel Rojas, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville division, said at a news conference that the agency’s main goal is to determine whether the Saudi air force lieutenant worked as “part of a larger network,” the newspaper reported. Rojas said Shamrani’s weapon, a 9mm Glock, was purchased legally, but she did not describe how Shamrani obtained it and brought it onto the base, according to the Post. Update 10:38 p.m. EST Dec. 7: The third victim of the Naval Air Station Pensacola shooting was identified as Cameron Scott Walters, 21, of Richmond Hill Georgia. “The Sailors that lost their lives in the line of duty and showed exceptional heroism and bravery in the face of evil,” Capt. Tim Kinsella, commanding officer at the installation, said in a release. 'When confronted, they didn’t run from danger; they ran towards it and saved lives. If not for their actions, and the actions of the Naval Security Force that were the first responders on the scene, this incident could have been far worse.” Update 9:58 p.m. EST Dec. 7: Two of the three victims in the deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola were identified. Mohammed “Mo” Haitham, of St. Petersburg, Florida, was killed as he tried to stop the shooter, The Tampa Bay Times reported. Haitham, 19, joined the Navy after graduating high school last year. He was assigned to flight crew training and was expected to graduate later this month. “He said he was going to get his flight jacket for Christmas,” his mother, Evelyn Brady, who also served in the Navy, told the Times. Update 3:08 p.m. EST Dec. 7: Authorities said Mohammed Saeed Ashamrani, the Saudi student who fatally shot three people at Florida’s Naval Air Station Pensacola hosted a dinner party earlier in the week, and he and three other people watched videos of mass shootings, The Associated Press reported Saturday. The official was briefed by federal investigators, according to the AP. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, whose district includes the Pensacola area, tweeted he received condolences from Saudi Ambassador Reema Al-Saud, WEAR-TV reported. Update 11:05 a.m. EST Dec. 7: Family members identified one of the victims fatally shot at Florida’s Naval Air Station Pensacola, the Pensacola News Journal reported Saturday. Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, a recent graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who reported to Pensacola two weeks ago, was one of the three people killed during Friday’s shooting, the newspaper reported. Watson’s brother, Adam Johnson, confirmed the death in a Facebook post, the News Journal reported “Joshua Kaleb Watson saved countless lives today with his own,” Adam Johnson wrote Friday night. ”After being shot multiple times he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was and those details were invaluable. 'He died a hero and we are beyond proud but there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled.” Watson’s father, Benjamin Watson, told the News Journal his son was the officer on deck at the time of the shooting. Joshua Watson was shot at least five times, his father told the newspaper. Update 11:05 a.m. EST Dec. 7: Family members identified one of the victims fatally shot at Florida’s Naval Air Station Pensacola, the Pensacola News Journal reported Saturday. Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, a recent graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who reported to Pensacola two weeks ago, was one of the three people killed during Friday’s shooting, the newspaper reported. Watson’s brother, Adam Johnson, confirmed the death in a Facebook post, the News Journal reported. Update 9:30 p.m. EST Dec. 6: The shooter has been identified as Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani according to WKRG. He is one of hundreds of international military members who are receiving training there. In a news conference Friday night, the FBI declined to comment on his possible motivations. “There are many reports circulating, but the FBI deals only in facts,” said Rachel L. Rojas, the FBI’s special agent in charge of the Jacksonville Field Office. “This is still very much an active and ongoing investigation.” Update 2:25 p.m. EST Dec. 6: Authorities declined to confirm the identity of the person who shot several people Friday morning at Naval Air Station Pensacola, killing three people before being shot and killed by deputies. “I think there’s obviously going to be a lot of questions about this indivdual being a foreign national, being a part of the Saudi Air Force and then to be here training on our soil and to do this,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday morning at a news conference. “The FBI is working with (the Department of Defense), they’re working with (the Florida Department of Law Enforcement), they’re working with Escambia County sheriff’s to answer those questions.” DeSantis said he spoke earlier Friday with President Donald Trump. “One of the things that I talked to the president about is given that this was a foreign national in the employ of a foreign service ... obviously the government of Saudi Arabia needs to make things better for the victims,' DeSantis said. 'I think that they, they are going to owe a debt here, given that this was one of their individuals.” Authorities confirmed at a news conference that the suspect used a handgun in Friday’s shooting. Capt. Tim Kinsella, commanding officer of NAS Pensacola, said the suspect was at NAS Pensacola for aviation training. Earlier in the day, deputies said the suspect opened fire just before 7 a.m. local time in a classroom building at NAS Pensacola. Authorities continue to investigate. Update 1:45 p.m. EST Dec. 6: Authorities in Pensacola are expected to provide an update Friday afternoon on the investigation into the deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola that left four people dead. Update 1:20 p.m. EST Dec. 6: President Donald Trump said Friday afternoon that he’s spoken to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and received a full briefing on the deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola. “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families during this difficult time,” Trump said. “We are continuing to monitor the situation as the investigation is ongoing.” Update 12:50 p.m. EST Dec. 6: An official told The Associated Press that the person who opened fire Friday at Naval Air Station Pensacola, killing three people and wounding several others before being shot and killed by authorities, was an aviation student from Saudi Arabia. Authorities are investigating to determine whether the shooting was terrorism-related, according to the AP. Military from around the globe attend the Naval Air Station in Pensacola. Authorities are expected to hold a news conference at 12:30 p.m. local time Friday to update the public on the investigation. Update 11:50 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Authorities expect to hold a news conference at 12 p.m. local time Friday to provide more updates on the shooting that left four people dead at Naval Air Station Pensacola.  Update 11:05 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Authorities said a total of 11 people were injured or killed in Friday morning’s shooting, including the suspected shooter. The injured included two responding deputies with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff David Morgan said Friday at a news conference. One deputy was shot in the arm and the other was shot in the knee, Morgan said. They were both expected to survive. Morgan described walking through the scene left by Friday’s attack as being similar to “being in a movie.” “You just don’t expect this to happen here at home,” he said. Authorities continue to investigate. Update 10:45 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Officials are holding a news conference to update the public on Friday morning’s deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola. Update 10:25 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Vice President Mike Pence said he’s monitoring the situation in Florida after a shooting left two victims and a suspect dead at Naval Air Station Pensacola. “Praying for the victims & their families,” Pence wrote Friday morning in a Twitter post. “We commend the first responders for their swift action in taking down the shooter & getting those on base to safety.”  Update 10:20 a.m. EST Dec. 6: White House officials said President Donald Trump has been briefed on the deadly shooting reported Friday morning at Naval Air Station Pensacola.  Update 10:15 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Officials with Naval Air Station Pensacola said the base will closed for the day Friday after a shooting left three people dead earlier in the day. Authorities said at least three people, including the suspected shooter, were killed in the incident. Reports indicated at least eight other people were wounded in the shooting. The incident happened two days after authorities said a U.S. sailor shot and killed two civilian employees before turning the gun on himself at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. One other person was injured in that shooting. Naval Air Station Pensacola employs more than 16,000 military and 7,400 civilian personnel, according to officials. Update 10:10 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said his office has been in “close contact with all the relevant officials & closely monitoring events” after a shooter opened fire at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday morning, killing two people. Authorities said the shooter also died. “Please pray for everyone impacted by this horrible situation,” Rubio said in a Twitter post. Update 10 a.m. EST Dec. 6: A spokesman at Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital told CNN that hospital officials expected to get three patients who had been injured in Friday morning’s shooting, down from the six expected earlier in the day. Hospital spokesman Mike Burke told the news network most victims were taken to Baptist Hospital because of its proximity to the base. Kathy Bowers, a spokeswoman for Baptist Hospital, earlier told the Pensacola News Journal that the hospital had received five patients wounded in Friday’s shooting. Update 9:45 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Officials with the U.S. Navy have confirmed that a second person has died after a shooter opened fire Friday morning at Naval Air Station Pensacola.  Update 9:35 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Officials told the Pensacola News Journal two people were confirmed dead after Friday morning’s shooting, in addition to the shooter. Naval officials previously said at least one person had been killed. Update 9:20 a.m. EST Dec. 6: At least 11 people were hospitalized in the immediate aftermath of Friday’s deadly shooting, according to The Associated Press. Ascension Sacred Heart spokesman Mike Burke told the AP six people were taken to the hospital after a shooter opened fire at Naval Air Station Pensacola early Friday. The Pensacola News Journal previously reported five other people were taken to Baptist Hospital with injuries. Naval officials said at least one victim was killed in Friday’s shooting. Authorities continue to investigate. Update 9:10 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Officials with the U.S. Navy said at least one person died Friday morning in a shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida. Authorities said the suspected shooter was also dead Friday morning. Update 9 a.m. EST Dec. 6: An official with Baptist Hospital told the Pensacola News Journal five patients were taken to the hospital after Friday morning’s reported shooting. Authorities continue to investigate. Update 8:55 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Authorities with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office said a suspected shooter was dead Friday morning at Naval Air Station Pensacola. Original report: Authorities are responding Friday morning to reports of shots fired at Naval Air Station Pensacola, according to base officials. Authorities at NAS Pensacola said both gates to the base were closed Friday morning as authorities investigated. Officials with the U.S. Navy said the base was on lockdown around 7:45 a.m. local time. A spokeswoman for ECSO told the Pensacola News Journal deputies were working to “take down” what was described as an active shooter around 7:30 a.m. local time. Officials with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office told WEAR-TV injuries were reported. Details on the number of people wounded and the extent of their injuries was not immediately available. The Associated Press contributed to this report. Check back for updates to this developing story.
  • For the people who work for Cure Violence, their mission is personal. Rod Lawson told Action News Jax he lost a brother and nephew back-to-back to gun violence.  “I know the pain it brings to the family,” he said. “I know the pain we’re still going through.”  Anthony Smith said he’s experienced the same pain – on the job.  “When I went to the shooting response, I found out it was my family member, my nephew, is the one that got shot that was lying in the house dead,” he said.  Lawson and Smith are among 15 violence interrupters that go into neighborhoods to try to stop retaliation.  In the six months since Cure Violence rolled out in Jacksonville, the city says interrupters mediated 52 conflicts in the streets.  The city says they stopped 37 shootings, 11 of which they believe would’ve been deadly.  “That’s them working with two parties that have a conflict and getting them to resolve that peacefully,” Damian Cook said.  Cook is the Cure Violence implementation director. Action News Jax asked Cook if the city considers Cure Violence a success, despite all the recent shootings. That includes 11 just this week.  “We are seeing the results. It would’ve been much worse, unfortunately. That’s what we see from this,” he said.  He and the men working on the front lines to stop the violence say changes won’t come overnight.  “It’s gonna work, and their minds are changing,” Smith said. “I understand how you feel but we don’t need to take the initiative to retaliate on anybody. Let’s stop it right now and let’s move forward.”  Lawson said if he can help save at least one life, that means a lot to him.  “We just started up. Just give us time. We can’t stop everything. I can’t stop everything. Just give us time, and we need people to help us too,” he said.  Action News Jax also talked with a UF Health Jacksonville trauma surgeon who treats a lot of shooting victims.  She said they’re working on adding another person to the Cure Violence team who would respond directly to the hospital after a shooting.
  • A new 5G cell phone tower in Ponte Vedra Beach continues to cause outrage and alarm. Action News Jax first told you in May when Bolles parents pushed back because they said the tower was too close to campus.  Action News Jax learned the Planning and Zoning Agency approved new plans to move it away from the school and onto the south side of the property.  The relocation area is 1,315 feet SSW of the previously-approved location, approximately 1,465 feet from the Bolles School, and 925 feet from the nearest residential structure.  Peter Kemp lives in the Woodlands Creek neighborhood and said neighbors are upset.  “Now they’re just punting it over to our side,” Kemp said.'  Kemp said parents are afraid of potential health risks.  “If it’s a concern for Bolles it should be concerned for residence in this neighborhood too,” Kemp said.  He said it’s also an eyesore.  “People might not want to buy this neighborhood and decrease our value of our property,” Kemp said.  Kemp said neighbors plan to appeal the decision.

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