Blog Posts

Seventh Budget Address

July 20, 2021  
Today, Mayor Lenny Curry presented his seventh proposed budget as mayor of Jacksonville to City Council. A copy of his remarks is provided below, as prepared for delivery. 

The 2021 Proposed Budget Book and CIP documents are available on the Budget Office web page
Good morning. To my good friends, President Sam Newby and Vice President Terrance Freeman, and to all of my colleagues on City Council, thank you for this opportunity to be with each and every one of you today. After the year we’ve all had, it’s good to just have this chance to gather together—face-to-face—to discuss the bright future we all see for our city, and how to get there.

To be sure, 2020 was a year with many challenges. But through collaboration here at City Hall, with our community, and with our partners at the state and federal levels, we met those challenges head on. I am confident that Jacksonville will emerge stronger than ever.

I want to welcome and thank all elected leaders here this morning. I am grateful for your willingness to step forward and serve our city and its people. And I want to thank our amazing City employees, who come in day after day to put our budgets and priorities into action.

You know, it’s easy as public officials and when you see the coverage of City Hall to think that the majority of our business happens here in Chambers and on the fourth floor… But that’s not the full story. The real work, the work that has a tremendous impact in the everyday lives of our citizens, is done by our City employees.

The librarian who leads story time for neighborhood kids, showing them the amazing worlds that books can reveal to them. The engineers and workers who design, build, and maintain thousands of roadways and sidewalks that connect us all together. Our fire fighters and police officers who put their lives on the line daily. The social services employees who lend a helping hand to our neighbors facing hardships.And the thousands of men and women in our Senior Centers, our parks, Tax Collector’s Offices, Courthouse… The thousands of men and women who collectively make this amazing city work.

While it’s true that budgets set priorities, it’s the people that turn priorities into action, and I am grateful for all who play a part. I want to take a moment to personally thank the city employees when in the midst of a global pandemic and so much uncertainty didn’t even blink an eye. Instead, they showed up for the citizens of Jacksonville day after day, over and over. 

Our City employees come from a diverse mix of backgrounds and experiences that truly represent our community. In recent months, we’ve taken steps to further enrich our workforce by partnering with JAX Chamber in the Connectable 20 in 20 initiative.

Connectable is a movement to unite this community and organizations to create meaningful connections for people with Autism, Down Syndrome, and other intellectual and developmental differences. It’s about providing opportunities and creating meaningful employment connections in the business community, and here at the City.

My good friend and fellow Jaguars super-fan Moose—who is here with us today—has been an amazing advocate for programs like these that provide job opportunities and support for individuals with intellectual differences. He is an inspiration and one of the many reasons why I am so proud to have this program.

Also with us today… Megan Bell. Megan is also part of the inspiration behind  Connectable 20 in 20 and it’s wonderful to see how her job has helped her to grow and develop. Megan works at the Chamber of Commerce, has her own apartment and a busier schedule than most of us in this room. In addition to her work schedule, she frequently makes time for golf, gymnastics, and surfing. She's also getting marriend next week!

Megan and Moose… please stand and be recognized.

In addition to these two success stories… In it’s inaugural year, Connectable allowed the City of Jacksonville to hire 5 exceptional individuals, and I want to acknowledge their contributions to our work serving the people of Jacksonville. For those who are here with us today, please stand when I call your name: 
Daniel Alderman, a stock clerk at the Fire & Rescue Department’s Logistical Support Facility. Collin Hazelip, who you’ve seen greeting visitors to City Hall at our welcome desk in the Atrium. Isaac Martin, a clerical support aid in our Military Affairs and Veterans Department. Symphony Bryant, a shelver at Jacksonville Public Library. And Patsy Wood, a Help Desk Representative for the Tax Collector’s Office.Thank you all for your amazing work and service to the people of Jacksonville. Public service is a noble calling and I am glad to have each of you on Team COJ.
This is my seventh proposed budget that I am bringing before the City Council. Like those before, this budget is a demonstration of my administration’s commitment to sound stewardship of taxpayer dollars, while investing in key priorities and initiatives to keep our community moving forward.

Today, I am proposing a more than 1.4-billion-dollar general fund budget and a half-billion-dollar Capital Improvement Plan. We can advance this budget and CIP because of the sound fiscal practices my team and I have implemented since taking office… Savings from pension reform, the utilization of American Rescue Plan dollars, and the Jobs for Jax initiative approved earlier this year.

Because of the smart and responsible decisions we’ve made in past years, Jacksonville is in a prime position to not only recover from the pandemic but emerge from it even stronger than we were before.

Since taking office in 2015, I’ve made it a priority to invest in communities and neighborhoods throughout Duval County. We’ve done that. But because of years of neglect and underinvestment we are still not where we need to be.

Last year, my team and I proposed a record-setting CIP to improve infrastructure and address critical needs, and because of the approval of Jobs for Jax, we are now able to go even further with projects that improve conditions, enhance quality of life, and create better environments where citizens and businesses can thrive.

In the first year of the new CIP, we’re proposing half-a-billion dollars of projects that touch every corner of our city. Here are some highlights: 
  • $24 million for county-wide roadway resurfacing – which is double the previous annual commitment to our roads and streets.
  • $50 million this year for parks, pools, libraries and other quality of life enhancements – And another 50 million in year 2. I am grateful to President Newby and Chairman White for establishing a new committee so that we can collaborate on this substantial expansion of these investments.
  • $54 million in drainage and resilience projects in the next fiscal year. A five-fold increase over last year and the start of a comprehensive multi-year, transformational response to the effects of sea-level rise. I look forward to accomplishing this work with a new team member who I ask you to join me in welcoming, Chief Resilience Officer Anne Coglianese. Anne will you stand for a moment to be recognized. Thank you, Anne. Welcome to Jacksonville. Nothing like being put on the spot!
A major goal of Jobs for Jax was to utilize Local Option Gas Tax dollars for needed transportation and infrastructure projects, so that more dollars could be freed up for other critical needs. That is happening. In fact, this proposed CIP allocates $50 million in the first year to phase out septic tanks in Jacksonville neighborhoods that were promised this critical work for decades. It’s time that this City lives up to its promises and begins rebuilding trust in our communities, and this is a first step toward that goal.

Additionally, one thing the pandemic has made clear is that wise communities invest in their public health infrastructure. We’ve done that, and we are continuing and enhancing that practice this year by increasing our funding for UF Health by $5 million, to support their work to serve those in need in our community.
This budget continues to invest in my top priority, and what should be the top priority of any government at any level: public safety.

We continue to sustain the gains made through the increased law enforcement resources of my previous budgets. Sheriff Williams and his team continue to do the hard work of protecting our neighborhoods. As I’ve said, one violent crime is one too many, but there is no doubt that our work has saved lives and made a positive difference for our city.

But as my friend and colleague Congressman John Rutherford often says, any holistic crime prevention effort is a three-legged stool with enforcement, prevention, and intervention programs working together to make it successful.

That is why in addition to these investments for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, we are continuing to invest in intervention and prevention efforts throughout the entire community. It’s why we continue to invest in diversion programs and youth initiatives at the Kids Hope Alliance. And it’s why this year we are including dollars in our budget to fully fund a third site for Cure Violence, building on the successes we’ve seen at our original two locations.

As we continue to see record growth in Jacksonville, we also see the need to keep our city’s fire and rescue department growing. There will be more than 70 new full-time personnel added to JFRD since last year. This includes firefighters, fire plan review employees, and a support position for the Fire Chief’s Scholarship and Apprentice program. This program is integral to continuing our success at making JFRD diverse and truly representative of the community that they serve.

Also for JFRD, as we see more marine sports and boating activity, this budget will begin the process of forming an additional marine unit to serve southern portions of the St Johns River.

We are approaching the end of collective bargaining with representatives of police and fire, so you will see raises accounted for in this budget. The men and women who serve as the first response in time of emergency have persevered in a moment in history like no other, I believe they deserve these investments.

The pandemic also made clear that the healthcare of our community is a public safety need, so this budget increases the investment we make in our region’s preeminent public hospital, UF Health. This budget takes their operational contribution up to 35 million dollars this year, and I intend to propose 40 million next year.

Despite the challenges of the last year, Jacksonville has made significant strides in economic development. Our momentum has continued, thanks to our amazing partnerships between the City and our business community, and with Governor DeSantis and the State of Florida in attracting new businesses here.

So far this year, I helped local Fortune 200 company FIS top off their new corporate headquarters building currently under construction just down the river. We announced that the well-respected and renowned Dun & Bradstreet firm is moving their headquarters here, to Jacksonville, creating 500 new jobs is our community. And we’ve seen more and more announcements from companies like SmartStream and Revalize about expanding and setting up here in Jacksonville.

The word is getting out. Jacksonville is the place to be for business. We are welcoming. We are conducive to growth and success. We are in a prime location to reach a large number of customers, for access to quality talent, and to support a high quality of life and low cost of living.

My team and I will continue to work with our partners to keep that momentum going and growing in the year ahead, to bring even more businesses, jobs, and economic opportunities to our city.

But I want to make it clear that momentum extends beyond big names and big businesses, it also includes our small businesses and entrepreneurs. These are the innovators and employers who keep our economy rolling and we are here to support them as well.

One way we do that is through our Jacksonville Small & Emerging Business (JSEB) program. And in this budget we are increasing our support for our JSEB partners with the addition of a financial support professional to our team and improving our Access to Capital program that helps businesses get the funding they need to start and grow.

Again, I am grateful for the support of JAX Chamber and JAXUSA, Governor DeSantis and his team at the State of Florida, our Office of Economic Development, and you on City Council for your time and efforts to improving our economy.  

Before I close, I want to come back to what I was saying about our amazing employees at the City of Jacksonville. The men and women who despite the significant hardships and uncertainties of the past year, still served their community, kept this City running, and set us up for the successes we are able to build upon today.

As I mentioned with police and fire, in recognition of their hard work and dedication, this budget also includes funding for civilian employee raises to be set in place under agreements for the next three years. These agreements properly invest in our people and reward them for keeping this government running through a pandemic, in the face of so many unknowns, and supports them in the hard road ahead in continuing on the path to recovery.

This is the right thing to do.
In closing, I thank you for this opportunity to present my vision for our next budget year. I am grateful for this chance to serve the people of Jacksonville alongside each of you here on Council. And my team and I look forward to earning your support for this budget from now until October.

And I also want to thank the people of Jacksonville. Thank you for your resilience, your spirit, and your continued strength in the face of much adversity. A city is only as strong as the people who live there, and we are a city that is finally beginning to realize its tremendous potential because of you—the people of Jacksonville.

Again, thank you and I look forward to an amazing future for Jacksonville.