Jacksonville Budget: Council To Find $4.5 Million Or Take From Downtown Fund

Aug 11, 2016

Jacksonville Finance Committee Chair Anna Lopez Brosche kicks of Day 1 of budget hearings at City Hall Thursday.
Credit City of Jacksonville

The Jacksonville City Council will have to decide whether to take more than $4.5 million away from downtown improvements or find the money elsewhere.

The Council Auditor presented his overview of the mayor’s proposed budget Thursday morning.

Overall, Mayor Lenny Curry’s Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa says his plan in balanced and focused on safety.

“The budget does not reduce any current levels of services with regards to funding and departments and or personnel,” Mousa said.

But right off the bat, auditor Kirk Sherman delivered bad news.

“Unfortunately we need to start off with a $2,595,751 net negative to the general fund,” he said.

That’s because the state is significantly decreasing projected revenue from taxes on phone and cable services.

But taking other factors into account, like expected increases in other tax revenue, leaves the general fund in the hole by 315,000. The mayor’s office said his revenue estimates are conservative, so that shouldn’t be too a big hit.

As the budget continues to be hammered out, the Council will have to decide whether to waive a city ordinance and take $4.5 million from a downtown development fund for general use. The money’s been sitting there for about a year.

Mousa said the mayor’s office budgeted the $4.5 million into the general fund because that’s where they believed unused money from the downtown development fund would go.

But instead, a local ordinance ensures the money stays put in what’s called a Community Redevelopment Area fund.

“It was unbeknownst to us that there’s language that says at the end of the fiscal year these dollars should be segregated rather than revert back to the general fund,” he said.

Councilwoman Katrina Brown and Councilman Bill Gulliford both said they don’t want to take funds away from downtown. Gulliford said finding the money elsewhere is the right thing to do.

“It’s the chicken or the egg,” Gulliford said. “If we don’t have the money available to further develop downtown, then we reap the exact detriment that you’re talking about because we don’t have the money to invest — we go negative on the revenue … it’s just self-perpetuating.”

Gulliford suggested council get the money from this year’s surplus. Mousa said so far this year the city is up about $20 million.

Finance committee members agreed to consult with the council president before making a recommendation.

The Finance Committee will look at library spending and fleet spending Friday.