City Council passes budget

In a unanimous late September vote, the Jacksonville City Council approved Mayor Alvin Brown’s $945 million budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
The vote sealed the fate of the Jacksonville Public Library system, which now is expected to close all but five facilities on Sundays and reduce hours during the week in order operate in its $3.5 million budget loss. Library staff also faces cuts.
The Main Library, Charles Webb Wesconnett Regional Library, Pablo Creek Regional Library, Southeast Regional Library and Highlands Branch Library will be open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Most locations will be closed on Mondays.
“It could have been worse,” said Friends of the Jacksonville Public Library President Harry Reagan shared in a response following the vote. “The mayor’s original budget proposal — a $4.6 million cut — was much worse. And next year may be just as bad as this year — maybe worse.”
He said volunteers with FJPL are gathering petition signatures for a straw vote on creating a special tax district for the library, “something that would give us sustainable, reliable funding for our libraries.” The group aims to have those petitions gathered by Nov. 6, Election Day.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office will be slashing positions based on the leaner budget parameters. The JSO’s $12.5 million budgetary deficiencies resulted in the loss of more than 240 positions. All of the  JSO’s community service officers were trimmed from the force.
District 14 City Councilman Jim Love said the city’s finance committee and Councilman John Crescimbini did a great job of allocating assets “the best way possible,” he said.
“Certainly we wish we had more money to work with,” Love said. “Just about everyone took a hit. I don’t like getting rid of the CSOs, but in lieu of the tax dollars we had to work with, it’s something that had to be done.”
Love said he did not like to see cuts for libraries either.
“But we all had to share in the pain due to reduced income,” Love said. “Overall, the finance committee did a good job getting things balanced in fair way. And hopefully next year we’ll have more money to work with.”

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