City budget debates begin

Late last month Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry presented to City Council his fourth budget since taking office in 2015. The budget proposed for fiscal year 2018-2019, which begins Oct. 1, is just over $1.2 billion, an increase over last fiscal year of almost $33 million, according to Curry.

Curry is proposing to increase funds for safety – with $30 million-plus for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and $17 million for the Fire & Rescue Department; health and education, with the goal of adding 60 more therapists at Duval County Public Schools, expanding library hours, adding new personnel and materials and replacing the library in Oceanway; and investing in the City’s parks with upgrades, repairs and additional maintenance staff.

On July 24, council approved keeping the current millage rates intact for the 2018-19 fiscal year, which are 11.4419 for most of Duval County.

For most of August, the council’s Finance Committee will debate Curry’s budget proposal. By the end of September, council will need to approve the remaining nine budget-related pieces of legislation.

Three of the seven members represent historic districts. Committee Chair Greg Anderson lives in District 14, in Ortega. District 14 Councilman Jim Love is a resident of Avondale and District 5 Councilwoman Lori Boyer lives in San Marco. The other members of the committee include Joyce Morgan, serving as vice chair, Reginald Gaffney, Bill Gulliford, and Sam Newby.

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 line items include $950,000 for St. Johns River Park, $1.3 million for upgrades at Friendship Fountain, $700,000 to expand the Southbank Riverwalk, $500,000 for a civic/cultural node on the Northbank Riverwalk, $100,000 for a floating dock on the Southbank, and $200,000 for new fencing and railings along the banks of Memorial Park.

Also in District 14, the mayor budgeted $270,000 for electrical upgrades and lighting at the tennis courts in Boone Park, and in Tillie Fowler Park $313,600 for a kayak launch and $160,000 for septic system replacement. He also put $2.2 million into the Public Works budget for the Park Street road diet and $500,000 for bulkhead replacement at Willowbranch Creek.

In District 5, the Millers Creek dredge project will get a $275,000 special district match; $150,000 was earmarked for pedestrian bridges on San Clerc Road, and $500,000 for a bridge on River Road.

In total, the budget for District 5 is $4,605,350 – a 33 percent decrease over last year, while the $3,418,600 budget proposed for District 14 is 53 percent lower than 2017. Almost half of that budget will be used to create a secondary ingress/egress in Ortega Hills ($1,050,000) and a bridge on Collins Road ($500,000).

Countywide, the 2018-2019 capital budget is also down by 50 percent at $39,135,660. The 25 projects slated for citywide projects includes road resurfacing (nearly $12 million) and another $1.25 million for signs, striping and signals; ADA compliance ($4.545 million for curb ramps/sidewalks and $2 million for public buildings); park upgrades and repairs ($2 million); drainage system rehabilitation ($4.2 million); bulkhead assessment and restoration along the St. Johns River ($1 million), and $1.2 million for a landfill gas-fueled leach gate evaporator.

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