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

Jacksonville, FL — 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.

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.

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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