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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

  • The Jacksonville Humane Society and Animal Care and Protective Services announced the city of Jacksonville, once again, earned the no-kill designation for the year of 2019. According to Best Friends Animal Society, “A no-kill community is a city or town in which every brick-and-mortar shelter serving and/or located within that community has reached a 90% save rate or higher and adheres to the no-kill philosophy, saving every animal who can be saved.'  According to a release put out by the JHS, the save rate for APCS was 90 percent and for JHS it was 95 percent, making a citywide save rate of 93 percent.  In total, 16,874 animals entered the JHS shelters in 2019, which is a significant decrease from 19,366 animals in 2018, according to the JHS.  According to JHS, Jacksonville earned the distinction of being the largest city in the United States to earn a no-kill status. The city has maintained that status until last year when ACPS save rate fell to 86 percent.  “Examining the data and trends in 2017 and 2018 resulted in our renewed focus on cats and kittens in 2019,” said Deisler. “As a community, we had to take a look at ourselves ask – what can we do to save those lives? We knew that with the help of our community, a return to no-kill was possible. We are excited about the results from 2019 and even more excited for 2020. Thank you, Jacksonville!”
  • Thirty-nine years after three Florida Highway Patrol troopers were killed in a plane crash, the state is honoring their sacrifice with a roadway designation. On July 13, 1981, Cpl. Cleo “Tommy” Tomlinsons, Trooper Merle Cook and Trooper Robert Pruitt were in an airplane that crashed in St. Johns County while assisting in the search for two suspects wanted for breaking and entering.  “We had received a call requesting assistance from the Sheriff’s Office on some burglary suspects they were trying to track,” retired FHP Trooper Rick McIntyre said.  McIntyre said it happened on a Monday. He dropped off his co-worker and friend, Tomlinson, at the airport so he could help search the wooded area. On his way back to assist on foot, he witnessed the horrific plane crash.  “A person goes into shock when they see something like that,” McIntyre said. “At the time, I had less than five years on the patrol and it was something horrible to witness.”  As the calls went out over the service radio, Tomlinson’s son was on the receiving end. He was in training to become a trooper.  “I can remember every detail about that day,” Tomlinson’s son and retired FHP trooper Chet Tomlinson said. “That day I was in recruit training at Parris Island.”  That day, three families lost a husband and father. The community lost three troopers who were protecting their homes.  Now, almost four decades after the crash, family members said they are thankful that their fathers’ sacrifices have not been forgotten.  “Hopefully the people and the citizens of the state of Florida understand the sacrifice the officers make each and every day when they walk out the door,” Tomlinson said.  Of the 48 FHP troopers who have died in the line of duty, fewer than half have received a roadway designation.  The sign, which includes all three troopers, is on U.S. Route 1 and stretch about 5 miles long. The FHP said it is in dedication of their sacrifice and a reminder for drivers to stay alert while on the road.
  • Dozens of strangers showed up Friday afternoon at the Jacksonville National Cemetery to make sure a local homeless veteran got the proper burial he deserved. Many of the people attending didn’t know John Meade Jr. was a veteran when he was alive. But they wanted to honor him properly, now that he’s gone.  “He was very much appreciated, and we all appreciate the service that he did. Not only for everybody else, but what he stood for,” said Shirley Greco, who attended the ceremony.  He had a lot of family at his funeral – maybe not in blood, but in spirit.  “I really do wish that he could be here to see the turnout today for him, I really do. And I think there’s a way that he knows how it turned out today,” Greco said.  “Whoever the vet is, doesn’t get buried with no family, so we become their family,” said Wayne May.  For at least 10 years, Meade sat on a bench in downtown St. Augustine every single day, and was a friendly face to everyone who passed by.  While he talked to everybody, no one knew much about him.  After Meade died, an officer with the St. Augustine Police Department spent 80 hours digging for information about him.  When the officer found out he served in the Army, he wanted Meade to have a proper burial. He asked the community to come out to Jacksonville’s National Cemetery, and they showed up by the dozens.  “People did care about him, and he’s never alone,” said Ken White, a veteran.  “I wish I would’ve known him,” another veteran said.
  • McKenzie Adams was 9 years old when she took her own life on Dec. 3, 2018, in her Linden, Alabama, home. A federal lawsuit filed Thursday by her family alleges that administrators and teachers at her elementary school, U.S. Jones Elementary in Demopolis, failed to protect her from incessant bullying. Demopolis is located in west Alabama, about 60 miles southwest of Tuscaloosa. “(The defendants) exhibited deliberate and blatant indifference to the wrongful persistent bullying and harassment, rife with racial and gender-based slurs, imparted upon McKenzie by a boy who was her classmate,” the lawsuit states. Linden and Demopolis police officials investigated the allegations of bullying in the wake of McKenzie’s hanging death but said they could not find the evidence to back up the family’s claims. The school also denied the allegations that bullying had been reported to administrators by the girl or her family. “We have concluded our internal investigation to the allegations of bullying which led to this senseless death. There have been no findings of any reports of bullying by either the student or family,” a Dec. 11, 2018, statement from the school district said, according to the Tuscaloosa News. “The findings of this internal investigation are consistent with the results of the investigation of the Linden Police Department at this point in time.” McKenzie’s family begged police to reopen the investigation. Her mother and grandmother are adamant that the bullying was reported to school officials multiple times. “Her case deserves a second look,” her weeping mother, Jasmine Adams, said at a news conference last January, according to WBRC in Birmingham. “There are things that could have been missed on the first go-round. And I just feel she deserves a second look at her case.” Hundreds of mourners attended the girl’s funeral, which was held in the gymnasium of her school. According to the News, a wreath of flowers spelling out “You are loved, little one” stood near her white casket. McKenzie, who family members said hoped to be a scientist when she grew up, wore a silver tiara as she was laid to rest. McKenzie’s mother and grandmother, Janice Adams, filed Thursday’s lawsuit on behalf of the girl, whose death made national headlines. Named in the lawsuit are the school, the Demopolis school system, Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff, then-U.S. Jones principal Tori Infinger, then-assistant principal Tracy Stewart and fourth-grade teacher Gloria Mims. Infinger resigned in April 2019, according to the Demopolis Times. It was not immediately clear Friday where Stewart is currently employed, but Mims remains listed as a teacher on the U.S. Jones website. “The Demopolis City Board of Education has only recently learned of a lawsuit filed against them on behalf of McKenzie Adams,” the school system’s attorney, Alex Braswell, said in a statement obtained by WSFA in Montgomery. “While we are not permitted to discuss pending litigation, the Demopolis Board of Education can say that we look forward to defending this case and dispelling the allegations made therein.” ‘Tell it to the wall because I do not want to hear it’ The lawsuit, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages, alleges that McKenzie, who was enrolled at U.S. Jones Elementary for the 2018-2019 school year, was “targeted and taunted” by a white 9-year-old in her class, who called her the N-word and an “ugly a** bit**.” The abuse took place both in the classroom and in the school gym, her family claims. “According to information and belief, on Oct. 24, 2018, (the boy) passed a note to McKenzie in which he called her a “bit**” while in the classroom of defendant Mims,” the lawsuit states. He also used sexually explicit terms in the note. The Adams family believes the abuse stemmed from the fact that McKenzie went to and from school with a white friend and the friend’s mother. McKenzie wrote in her diary Nov. 5, 2018, that two boys at school had been bullying her, the suit alleges. “Upon information and belief, on the date of her death, Dec. 3, 2018, (the boy) told McKenzie to kill herself, told her that she was better off dead, and instructed her on the manner to take her own life,” the lawsuit says. McKenzie’s mother and grandmother say Mims, who was McKenzie’s math teacher at the time of her death, was aware but “deliberately indifferent” to the bullying taking place. Janice Adams, the girl’s grandmother, attempted in August 2018 to set up a meeting with Mims to discuss the ongoing abuse. “Plaintiff Janice Adams never received a return call from Mims,” the suit states. She tried again in September to set up a meeting to discuss the abuse and what it was doing to McKenzie’s “state of mind.” “On Oct. 1, 2018, she received a generic notice that there was no need for a parent-teacher conference,” the lawsuit says. Progress reports came out that month, and McKenzie’s report indicated she was failing math, the class Mims taught. Ordinarily, her family told media outlets, McKenzie excelled in math. “Plaintiff Janice Adams was aware that McKenzie was struggling in the course due to emotional challenges resulting from the bullying and harassment that McKenzie was experiencing in her class,” the complaint said. “Concerned about McKenzie’s state of mind, plaintiff Janice Adams went to Mims’ classroom on Oct. 12, 2018, to request a meeting with Mims. “At that time, Plaintiff Janice Adams identified (the alleged bully), informed Mims that McKenzie was being bullied by him, and asked that the school address the bullying. Plaintiff Janice Adams left her contact information for a follow-up meeting. Mims failed to call her back.” The lawsuit states that Infinger was present for the meeting and was made aware of the supposed bullying going on in Mims’ classroom. Janice Adams claims the principal failed to act. On Oct. 24, Mims obtained the harassing note the boy passed McKenzie in class. Mims contacted the girl’s grandmother and told her that, instead of disciplining the boy, McKenzie would be disciplined for responding to the bullying, the lawsuit states. Talking to law enforcement officials later, Mims admitted that there were two boys, including the one indicated in the lawsuit, who “bothered” everyone in the class, the court document says. Mims told police the boy was “often jumping around and striking other children.” She called him a “clown” and said the boy was always in trouble. Despite his behavior, the lawsuit alleges, no action was taken to discipline the boy for his harassment of McKenzie. McKenzie complained to the teacher multiple times about the bullying. “Upon information and belief, on numerous occasions, Mims instructed McKenzie to ‘tell it to the wall because I do not want to hear it,’” the lawsuit states. Read the entire federal lawsuit filed on behalf of McKenzie Adams below.  The lawsuit alleges that Mims admitted to law enforcement that she was aware that the boy was engaged in conduct defined as bullying by Demopolis City Schools, that he specifically targeted McKenzie and that McKenzie’s family was concerned about the emotional impact the bullying had on the girl. “Upon information and belief, Mims was aware that one risk factor for suicidal ideation was bullying,” the suit says. The complaint states that Mims violated school and district policy by failing to notify Infinger, the principal, or the central office of the first instance of bullying. She also failed to inform them of the continual bullying and failed to take action on her own to stop the harassment, the document says. “Defendant’s deliberate indifference created a dangerous environment and barred McKenzie’s access to a safe learning environment. As the direct result of Mims’ conduct, McKenzie committed suicide,” the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit also blames Infinger’s lack of action for the girl’s death. It states she had actual knowledge of the behavior toward McKenzie and failed to train teachers and administrators on gender- and race-specific bullying. Stewart is named in the lawsuit because McKenzie’s family alleges that Mims gave the harassing note of Oct. 24, 2018, to the assistant principal and she did nothing to stop the bullying. “Stewart contacted McKenzie’s family on Oct. 25, 2018, regarding the note,” the lawsuit states. “At that time, plaintiff Janice Adams informed Stewart that McKenzie was being bullied and had been bullied since the commencement of the school year.” Stewart informed Adams that McKenzie would be punished for responding to the note. It was not clear in the filing what the girl’s response was. “Following the phone call with plaintiff Janice Adams, Stewart spoke on a three-way phone call with plaintiff Janice Adams and McKenzie’s mother, plaintiff Jasmine Adams, to discuss McKenzie’s discipline regarding the note,” according to the lawsuit. “Plaintiff Jasmine Adams expressed concern about the bullying, the harassment and the fact that McKenzie was being disciplined by U.S. Jones.” The distraught mother informed Stewart that she planned to contact the State Department about the persistent bullying and harassment. “Stewart asked plaintiff Jasmine Adams not to contact the State Department and stated that U.S. Jones would handle the matter,” the suit says. “However, U.S. Jones did not handle the matter.” The lawsuit alleges that the school system did not adhere to state and federal anti-bullying measures. It claims that all the defendants named in the complaint had participated in the Jason Flatt Suicide Prevention Program, a program by The Jason Foundation designed to provide professional development for teachers and youth workers so they can better identify children at risk for suicide. The foundation was created in 1997 by Clark Flatt after his 16-year-old son, Jason Flatt, died by suicide. The lawsuit also claims the school and district failed to comply with the Jamari Terrell Williams Bullying Prevention Act, which AL.com reported was enacted to strengthen the state’s 2009 anti-harassment law. The act requires schools to define, control, report and stop bullying. The act is named after 10-year-old Jamari Williams, a gifted Montgomery dancer and honor roll student who took his own life Oct. 11, 2017, after being bullied for “being different,” according to the website for a foundation set up in his name. The federal lawsuit in McKenzie’s death accuses the district of violating Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits harassment based on gender, as well as Title VI, which prohibits discrimination based on race. The lawsuit also accuses the school system of denying Adams equal protection under the 14th Amendment. It asks for compensatory damages “in an amount that will fully compensate McKenzie and her family for all they suffered” and such punitive damages that would “properly punish them for the constitutional, statutory and common law violations perpetrated upon McKenzie as alleged herein, in an amount that will serve as a deterrent to defendants and others from engaging in similar conduct in the future.” Since McKenzie’s death, her aunt, Eddwina Harris, has been working to kickstart an anti-bullying organization called the McKenzie Foundation. A GoFundMe page set up to collect donations has raised $12,830 of its $20,000 goal. A large portion of the work of the McKenzie Foundation appears to be public speaking on the dangers of bullying. “If you knew your child was at a place where there was a ticking time bomb, you would come and get them out,” Eddwina Harris told the News following her niece’s funeral. “The time is now to get them out of a dangerous situation.” As for the national publicity McKenzie’s death received, Harris said she believed it would do some good in the wake of tragedy. “It’s touching that one little 9-year-old girl has changed the lives and minds of so many people and it’s going to stick with us for the rest of our lives,” she said.
  • Two months after a young mother was found shot to death in a southside apartment off Gate Parkway, Jacksonville Police have announced an arrest.  Police obtained an arrest warrant on Thursday for 23-year-old Keeshawn Glover for charges of second degree murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. 24-year-old Felisia Williams was found dead in her home at the Gardens of Bridge Hampton Apartments near Belfort Road.  Family and friends say Williams had a 4-year-old daughter.  According to JSO, Williams and Glover knew each other, but they did not elaborate on their relationship.  

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