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Jacksonville’s Mayor rolls out nearly $1.4 billion City budget proposal
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Jacksonville’s Mayor rolls out nearly $1.4 billion City budget proposal

Jacksonville’s Mayor rolls out nearly $1.4 billion City budget proposal
Photo Credit: City of Jacksonville

Jacksonville’s Mayor rolls out nearly $1.4 billion City budget proposal

A plan to spend close to $1.4 billion of your tax dollars is out.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has unveiled his budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, which includes money for each city department- from JSO to libraries- as well as an additional Capital Improvements Plan, which details infrastructure projects. 

“Reflects the core principles and key priorities that have guided me as a Mayor these last four years,” Curry says.

The budget proposal itself will now face weeks of vetting and scrutiny, but Curry is keeping the early focus on those top line priorities.

FULL COVERAGE: Tracking your tax dollars in Jacksonville

With public safety, there are three new rescue units proposed in this budget- for Station 11 in Talleyrand, Station 12 in San Marco/St. Nicholas, and Station 41 serving Mayport/Neptune Beach. WOKV previously reported that JFRD was pushing for these rescue units.  Only two JFRD fire stations would now stand without their own rescue unit if this plan is approved, and JFRD says one has historically low call volume, and the other has a fire station with a rescue unit just about a mile away.

This budget proposal also continues to invest in a new fire station in the Arlington Expressway/Atlantic Boulevard area, with $5 million proposed this year on top of $2.5 million in prior funding. There would also be money for renovations, like for Fire Station 10 off McDuff.

“These investments reduce call response times and they save lives,” Curry says.

City of Jacksonville
Fire Station 10
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Fire Station 10

Photo Credit: City of Jacksonville
Fire Station 10

While additional patrol officers had not been expected in this budget, Curry says he is funding some new positions dedicated to furthering the integration of technology that has been deployed in the fight against violent crime. Several dozen employees from JSO, the State Attorney’s Office, and ATF all collaboratively work in a space in the State Attorney’s Office that is known as the Crime Gun Intelligence Center. This Center serves as a collaborative meeting and working space for these partners to come together to track trends and analyze multiple data feeds, from the new Real-Time Crime Center to the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network to Shotspotter gunshot detection sensors. City leaders say this Center allows them to generate leads and quickly connect cases that previously would have been worked separately for much longer before those connections were found. This budget proposal adds five more positions to the Real-Time Crime Center.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Jacksonville’s Real-Time Crime Center

Focusing specifically on interrupting crime trends and intervening at the community level, Curry says he will continue investing in the Cure Violence program, which the City has already dedicated several hundred thousand dollars toward.

In line with intervening with youth, as part of the recommended budget boost for the Kids Hope Alliance, Curry says some of the funding would be dedicated to Juvenile Justice diversion programming. A Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee recently issued their report to the State Attorney’s Office, recommending the change as a step toward addressing misbehavior without excessively exposing youth to the juvenile justice system, which can be traumatic. The State Attorney’s Office expects about $500,000 to be put toward this purpose by the City, in this budget proposal.

That JJAC also recommended a dedicated tax to support children’s services in the City, but the Mayor’s Office has declined so far to directly comment to WOKV on whether that’s something they would support or what they could alternatively pursue. It’s also not clear if there will be any support for a recommendation from Jacksonville’s Task Force on Safety and Crime Reduction, which has not only requested “emergency funding”, but also a discussion on a dedicated, long-term funding source for a broader crime reduction strategy.

Curry says this budget proposal does not include any tax increases. The City of Jacksonville continues to see overall growth in the property tax rolls as a result of new construction and rising property values, so Curry has more funding to work with year-over-year, because of the resulting increase in property tax payouts.

WOKV is working to learn more about a proposed increase in what Curry is calling “Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office school guardian program” funding. The Duval County Public School District employs dedicated guardians called School Safety Assistants, to comply with a relatively new state law that requires armed security on all school campuses. While those SSAs are trained and on-boarded, JSO has been filling gaps by providing officers to work schools that do not have an SSA. The City says JSO officers are still having to work substantial overtime to cover schools, because there is a high rate of School Safety Assistants that are not passing the training. 

During the last budget cycle, the Mayor’s Administration told the City Council that an increase in JSO overtime billing was expected, as a result of the demands around providing school security, but they also indicated they intended to seek reimbursement for that cost from DCPS. Now, Curry says he is proposing $3.8 million for JSO to act as guardians- which he says is $500,000 more than this current fiscal year- as part of a commitment to keeping kids safe in public schools. 

“We must and will make our schools safe havens for every child in Jacksonville to learn and grow,” Curry says.

The JSO budget outlined in Curry’s proposal does show that there has been some prior reimbursement from DCPS relating to these JSO overtime costs. WOKV will update you as we learn more about how this is all being funded.

Ahead of Monday’s presentation from Curry, WOKV got a copy of the draft Capital Improvements Plan which demonstrated some of what Curry outlined a video he released Sunday ahead of his budget presentation, and then emphasized in his Monday roll-out. This includes drainage funding, county-wide sidewalks, park repairs, and more.

Some of the capital dollars will also be put toward the City’s railroad crossings. As we work to get details of the specific projects covered in that, we’ve previously reported that Jacksonville was awarded millions of dollars in federal funding to address the impact of trains on residential areas, like San Marco. There are several partners in that project who also committed funding, but it has been unclear how Jacksonville will cover it’s nearly $980,000 share. The project details available so far indicate only that this proposal is for county-wide railroad work, as the railroad companies deem necessary.

The CIP also follows through with funding under some multi-year agreements Curry previously committed the City to, including a five-year $25 million match for the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ master plan and six-year $120 million plan for infrastructure needs and improvements at UF Health Jacksonville. This current fiscal year also saw investment in public facilities like the Prime Osborne Convention Center and Ritz Theatre, and that will continue, under Curry’s proposal. The Florida Theatre would see $1 million in the upcoming fiscal year, as part of a new five-year $5 million agreement, which Curry says would involve matching funds.

City of Jacksonville
Florida Theatre
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Florida Theatre

Photo Credit: City of Jacksonville
Florida Theatre

Curry is further proposing $500,000 in the upcoming fiscal year, as part of a multi-year plan to upgrade and improve pools across Duval. Our partner Action News Jax recently chronicled some of the maintenance needs at a few pools in the city.

While Curry says these neighborhood investments are important, he’s also again committing to continued investment in Downtown, which he says will act as a hub from which growth will expand.

“You can’t be a suburb of nowhere,” Curry says.

Curry touted business and residential growth taking place in Downtown and some big projects in the enclaves of Lavilla, Brooklyn, and Laura Street.

Monday’s budget presentation by Curry is the start of this annual budget process.

“It’s always an exciting time, now we get down to the devil that’s in the details,” says City Councilman Tommy Hazouri.

Curry’s plan now faces scrutiny by the City Council Auditor and then weeks of vetting by Council members themselves, before the revised package is put up for a vote by the entire 19-member body ahead of the new fiscal year on October 1st. Hazouri says he will look to ensure some of his priorities are funded, like keeping expanded library hours. Other Council members, like Rory Diamond, say it already looks like their districts are in good shape.

“We’ve got $1.5 million for new docks, we’ve got money for a rescue station, and we’ve also got money to fix Penman Road. It’s good stuff,” says the Beaches Councilman.

Council President Scott Wilson says he’s happy to see the proposal is balanced, but that also means that any additional projects that Council members want to secure funding for, they will have to find the money.

WOKV will be digging deep in to the proposal, and will update you in the coming weeks about the plan to spend your tax dollars.

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The Latest News Headlines

  • Two weeks after WOKV reported that Jacksonville city leaders were looking to up the sakes for the fan experience around the annual Florida-Georgia game, Mayor Lenny Curry and other dignitaries on Friday announced the inaugural Bold City Bash.  The big weekend will begin with an exhibition baseball game between the Gators and Bulldogs at the Baseball Grounds on Friday, November 1st.  Following the exhibition game, country music star Brett Young and other special guests will perform, followed by fireworks. Tickets for both the game and concert/fireworks will cost $15 and go on sale September 3rd.  “It’s always good to have a little anticipation and mystery, so there will be two more acts announced in the weeks ahead”, said Mayor Curry.  There will also be events on the Flex Field at TIAA Bank Field before the football game on Saturday, November 2nd.  “Duval’s Bold City Bash is a signature addition to the Florida-Georgia game and will encompass an entire week of festivities”, said Bill McConnell, General Manager of SMG.  “It will energize Downtown and it will make the Sports Complex the place to be to celebrate the Florida-Georgia tradition before gameday”.  WOKV reported on August 8th that the Mayor’s budget request proposed spending hundreds of thousands of dollars more than prior years, to create a destination in the heart of the Sports Complex. “All the way from RV City, through the [Daily’s Place] Flex Field, in to the parking lots next to the stadium, out to APR [A. Philip Randolph Blvd.], and incorporating the Baseball Grounds and some of the different things on APR, including private businesses that are in the food and entertainment business, to try to connect them all together in a way that offers that whole area of the Sports and Entertainment District as a location for multiple events,” said Jacksonville’s Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes. Hughes said the intention is to activate this area for several days leading up to the game for both family-friendly activities and nightlife, with everything from live music to street vendors. WOKV started asking about the enhanced fan experience, after seeing a boost in a special events subfund in Mayor Curry’s proposed $1.4 billion budget. While the City plans to do the same annual events it hosts every year, like the Hall of Fame luncheon, they’re proposing budgeting several hundred thousand dollars more than last year in order to execute this vision. The budget proposal includes an addition over last year of more than $440,000 for miscellaneous Florida/Georgia expenses relating to event services and $75,000 in equipment rentals corresponding with the increase in services, among other areas. The exact price tag for the Bold City Bash was not yet available.  Fans will be encouraged to ‘activate’ during The Block Party along Adams Street and A. Philip Randolph Blvd. Live entertainment, food trucks, a beer garden and free giveaways will be part of the fanfare experience.  Per the game contract, all parties are currently in the first negotiation window, which goes up until a few days prior to this year’s game. The final game under this current contract is in 2021, but Brian Hughes says all parties are having productive talks, and he hopes to be able to work out a deal that extends the game in Jacksonville for many years to come. “We anticipate getting to the finish line,” he says. The last contract extension was for five years and gave the teams a combined $2.75 million in payments and incentives over the course of the contract, including annual guaranteed payments, travel expenses, and more. There are limited direct revenue opportunities for the City, like through the operation of concessions and Daily’s Place. The direct costs to the City, meanwhile, have continued to climb over the years, with this new enhanced fan experience being the latest element- since Hughes says it is intended that this be an annual event. In addition to the price of running the stadium operations, the cost of tickets for the game has increased, and the City is obligated under the contract to buy 1,000 each year. The City is reimbursing the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair $80,000 this year relating to costs they will incur because they agreed to delay the opening of the Fair by a week to avoid a conflict with the game. Additionally, the City is paying the Jags nearly $380,000 to acknowledge revenue the team is losing because of the impact of the temporary seating construction on their available tickets to sell for their game the weekend prior to FL/GA. The cost of constructing temporary bleachers at TIAA Bank Field to meet the contractual seating obligation for the game is a little more than $2.4 million this year, with the Jaguars reimbursing about $310,000 relating to the construction in the Club Levels. That number varies some year to year, and could see an increase soon, as the contract with the current vendor expires and negotiations are ongoing in relation to an extension. Hughes says the cost of the event is well worth it, considering the impact on the city. “Jacksonville gets a lot of benefit from it. The economic impacts are real, we fill hotel rooms, we have people going to dinner for multiple nights while they’re here, we have people going out to the beach, we have people enjoying our public spaces around Jacksonville, in addition to having game day,” he says. And it’s also about the tradition. “Both UGA and the University of Florida have deep alumni networks here. It’s become a great tradition for a neutral site game, it’s one of the most famous neutral site games and rivalries in college football, and has been for decades,” he says. Now is the time the City wants to build on that tradition, not only through the enhanced fan experience, but the possible permanent changes for the Sports Complex. The Administration is in the process of putting the finishing touches on an economic development agreement that will reflect around $233.3 million in City incentives for the $450 million development of Lot J at the stadium in to a mixed-use site with entertainment, office, hotel, and residential space. While that deal is still pending approval by the Downtown Investment Authority and the City Council, another project that is moving forward is the removal of the Hart Bridge ramps by the stadium. All of this will mean construction likely affecting the next couple of games after the 2019 one, but Hughes says it will be worth the hassle. “Ultimately, a couple of years on the other side of it, I think people will be amazed at how well both Jaguars games and other events in that area and the Florida/Georgia tradition will kind of fit together down there very well,” he says. The Mayor’s budget proposal- and the included funding for this enhanced fan experience complex- is still pending the vetting and approval of the Jacksonville City Council. A final vote will take place ahead of the start of the Fiscal Year October 1st.
  • A man has died as a result of a stabbing on Jacksonville’s westside.  Jacksonville Police say they received a 911 call on Thursday night from a person who said that his friend had just been stabbed on Kingston Street, off Commonwealth.  He told police they were driving the victim to UF Health on the northside. A short while later another 911 call came in about a crash at 8th Street and Davis.  Three people were inside the car, one person had a stab wound to the chest.  He was rushed to the hospital where he later died.  Two people who were in the car told police the suspect was an unidentified black woman who fled the scene in a dark colored car.  JSO is asking anyone who may have information about the stabbing to contact them at (904) 630-0500 or Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS. 
  • The active search for Brian McCluney and Justin Walker by the Coast Guard and Jacksonville Fire and Rescue has come to an end after the men went missing a week ago off the Space Coast during a boating trip. Randy Wyse, the President of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters says it has been a hard week. We were hoping for a better outcome. Wyse says the community and volunteers have been phenomenal with the search and fundraiser. More than $150,000 has been raised and Wyse says the money is growing every hour but now the expenses are starting to come in. We promised we would cover fuel for boats and planes. Volunteers are being asked to bring their reimbursement receipts to the Command Post. Once the money gets situated, the money left over will go to the family members of McCluney and Walker. Wyse tells WOKV they will not be involved or funding any private searches, but the families can do whatever they wish with the money. Click here, if you wish to donate. 
  • A 10-year-old boy who was reported missing after leaving school in Argyle Forest is now back with his grandmother following an AMBER Alert and hours-long search. Two people have since been arrested for interfering with custody of a child and giving false information to law enforcement.  The Clay County Sheriff’s Office says the boy was picked up by someone while walking home from school in Argyle Forest, and taken to Jacksonville. According to an arrest report, 23-year-old Ondreja Ciprian had tried to entice the boy to come live with her over the past couple of weeks, without the grandmother’s knowledge or consent.  DCF had previously removed the boy from his mother and father’s care, and in February of 2018 awarded custody to his grandmother.  During the search for the boy on Thursday, Clay detectives went to a home off Rampart Road on Jacksonville’s westside, where they made contact with Vachastity Christian.  Detectives found a shirt draped over a fence that was positiively identified by the grandmother as the same shirt the missing boy had been wearing at school.  The boy was found safe in a back bedroom of the home and was later released to his grandmother.  Ciprian and Christian, whose relationship is not clear from the arrest report, were charged with interference with child custody and providing false information to law enforcement during a missing child investigation.  The Clay Sheriff’s Office says it is thankful to the community, who shared the message thousands of times on social media, brought in tips, and offered to help in any way they could. 
  • The week is going to end mostly dry and hot. Afternoon temperatures will reach the low 90’s but ‘feels-like’ temps 100-105.  Action News Jax Meteorologist Garrett Bedenbaugh says the Atlantic sea breeze moves inland this afternoon, which may pop an isolated shower but most neighborhoods along I-95 are high and dry today. The best chance for a shower today will be west of Hwy 301. Afternoon storms are expected on Saturday, but most of the activity will be inland. Our threat for rain and storms increases Sunday through the first half of next week. In the tropics, Invest 98-L is between South Florida and Andros Island of the Bahamas. Slow development is possible with this system as it parallels the Atlantic coast through the weekend. This will elevate seas a bit off our coast during the weekend, then it moves away from the local area to start next week. It will also impact where and when the rain falls during the weekend.  

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