Mayor Curry's Budget Pours Millions Into Jacksonville City Council Districts

Jul 26, 2018

Jacksonville’s most impoverished neighborhoods could receive infrastructure improvements if Mayor Lenny Curry’s latest budget is approved in September.

Curry on Monday introduced a $1.2 billion city budget to the Jacksonville City Council with $164.3 million worth of capital improvement projects.

Our Jacksonville Daily Record news partner reports the legislative branch plans to go through it line by line in August and September, as each city department, independent authority and members of the executive branch defend their annual allocations and enhancements.

While each of Jacksonville’s 14 council districts receives benefits from the $39.1 million in countywide infrastructure projects, the 2018-19 budget places more emphasis and allocates more money to districts in North and West Jacksonville.

Countywide spending is down 50 percent from the current budget. The opposite is true for district spending, which increased 51 percent from 2017-18.

Overall, the Capital Improvement Program budget, which accounts for infrastructure and other priority spending, is up 2.38 percent year over year.

District 7, which comprises Downtown, Springfield and a large swath of North Jacksonville, including the area surrounding the Jacksonville International Airport, is slated to receive the most capital improvement money this year, with more than $65.2 million worth of projects.

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Credit Jacksonville Daily Record

The largest investment is the modification and removal of the exit ramps attached to the west side of the Hart Bridge Expressway.

The administration received $12.5 million from the state, which the city plans to match to begin “Phase No. 1.” The plan is to remove a section of ramps above Gator Bowl Boulevard and grade the roadways to ground level.

Curry says it will provide a more efficient traffic pattern for the trucks entering and leaving the Talleyrand port area and “unleash billions in economic development” for the Northbank.

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Kahn wants to embark on an estimated $2.5 billion mixed-use district around TIAA Bank Field.

In Southwest Jacksonville’s District 9, the administration is proposing $20.3 million in projects, most of which, about $13 million, is for the ongoing restoration efforts at McCoys Creek.

Northwest Jacksonville’s District 8 could receive $4.9 million, with $2.5 million going toward restoring African-American cemetery sites the mayor said are in unacceptable condition.

On the other side of the St. Johns River in District 1, the Arlington neighborhood also is slated to benefit from investments. Funding for a $2.5 million fire station, a $1 million rowing center and $2.45 million to upgrade the pool facilities at Blue Cypress Park is included.

Toward the Beaches in District 13, council member Bill Gulliford is hoping to secure $2 million for the construction of a new Mayport Community Center, $360,000 for new docks near the St. Johns River Ferry and $1.18 million for enhancements at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park.

In District 5’s Southbank and San Marco neighborhoods, and in District 14’s Riverside neighborhood, the capital improvements budget includes $3.75 million for improvements along the St. Johns River.

Those include $950,000 for St. Johns River Park, $1.3 million for upgrades at Friendship Fountain, $700,000 to expand the Southbank Riverwalk and $200,000 for new fencing along the banks of Memorial Park.

The capital improvement program is spread over five years and currently is worth about $610 million. The latest budget essentially doubles Curry’s first CIP requests of $77 million in 2015.

Other projects include $5 million for the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, $15 million for UF Health Jacksonville and $2.5 million for the development of a public library in Oceanway in North Jacksonville.

Beginning Aug. 7 and continuing for most of the month, the council Finance Committee will debate Curry’s budget proposal.

Republican Greg Anderson chairs the seven-member committee along with Democrat Joyce Morgan serving as vice chair.

Lori Boyer, Reginald Gaffney, Gulliford, Jim Love and Sam Newby also serve on finance.

On Tuesday night, council approved keeping the current millage rates intact for the 2018-19 fiscal year. Those rates are 11.4419 for most of Duval County, 8.1512 for the three Beach cities, and 9.6312 for the town of Baldwin.

Council will need to approve the remaining nine budget-related pieces of legislation by the end of September, ahead of the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.