Blog Posts

The Budget Address

July 21, 2022  
Mayor Curry speaking from a podium in front of a blue backdrop.

Each year, a privilege of serving as Mayor is the presentation of our balanced budget for the year ahead. However, this one, as it’s my final budget presentation, is bittersweet. Heading into my final year as Mayor of Jacksonville, I have taken the opportunity to reflect on the last seven years.

Together, we successfully managed uncharted territory due to a global pandemic and challenging economic conditions. This forced some other city governments to declare financial emergencies. Here in Jacksonville, we not only survived, but we thrived by standing unified for our city’s future.

Every year I have said that budgets are about priorities, and this budget, like the ones I’ve presented prior, demonstrate those are not just words. They are promises kept.

This year, because our neighbors are facing the sting of inflation, and because we have built such a strong financial position, I believe it is time for the first property tax cut since 2007. A reduction of one-eighth a mill to the current property tax rate.


In 2017, with a vote of the people by referendum, we closed the City pension plans to new participants and established a dedicated revenue source in the future to fully-fund those obligations. Without my pension reform initiative, the City’s annual contributions to pensions would have severely constrained our ability to fund essential City services.

Because of the pension reform that went into effect beginning with Fiscal Year 2018, over $834 million dollars was able to be put to work in Jacksonville rather than diverting to legacy obligations. These funds have allowed us to ensure the City’s finances are sound, to keep us safe, and to invest in Jacksonville’s future.

At the same time, we found a structure for new employees and restoration of benefits eliminated by my predecessors that still provide a strong retirement plan for city workers. Including the promises made to police and fire/rescue personnel.

Since July 1, 2015, we have reduced our outstanding debt by over $560 million dollars. That equates to an annual savings of approximately 30 million dollars each year. Reducing debt helps the city appeal to rating agencies and investors, and lowers borrowing costs when we go to the capital markets. Stated simply, having lower payments means more money for other City needs.

Since I took office, we have increased the City’s reserves from less than $130 million dollars in Fiscal Year 2015 to approximately $347 million dollars in Fiscal Year 2021. Having strong reserves are critical for Jacksonville’s security now and into the future. Most important it is responsible financial planning that leaves a solid foundation for the mayor and city council that will be in this chamber next July.

Another important and sizable investment is to modernize the City’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, from the old mainframe screens the City had in place for decades. We embarked on a multi-year journey beginning in 2016. These systems upgrades, to which we have already allocated $48 million dollars, will bring Jacksonville’s reporting, operations, and data management capabilities into the 21st century.

As expected, challenges come with such a monumental conversion, but we are confident that the improvements made are worth it. My team and I took on the task of shouldering these challenges to pave the way for future administrations and councils. I’d like to thank our hard-working City staff for helping me tackle this challenge head-on.


This coming year, I’m making an historic investment in the Capital Improvement Plan budget, referred to as the CIP, which will meet all targets for the next fiscal year, and beyond, once again setting up future administrations for continued success.

For the second year in a row, the CIP has nearly half a billion dollars in first year investments, made possible by our taxpayers, wise financial planning from my team, and record growth in Duval County.

This year, I’ve allocated $20.5 million dollars for the renovation or relocation of seven fire stations, as well as the addition of one new fire station in the City of Jacksonville. These investments reduce loss of life and constrain property insurance costs.

In response to climate change, this coming year $10 million dollars is put toward resiliency; 50 million dollars total over the next five years. Additionally, we have $86 million dollars for drainage improvements and $28.3 million dollars for river bulkhead improvement throughout the City of Jacksonville.

There is a major commitment to roadway resurfacing with $26.5 million dollars in year 1, and $116 million dollars allocated over five years. In addition, the next fiscal year has $10.8 million dollars in the CIP for sidewalk improvements, $58 million dollars over five years.

As the Shipyards and downtown continue the path to development, the budget extends our riverwalk to the east, near the stadium. This includes $7.2 million dollars in my budget for these improvements and continued investment facilitating the relocation of MOSH, the Museum of Science and History.

Improving and expanding our parks system has remained another top priority. That’s why I’m proposing $108 million dollars in the next fiscal year, and $259.8 million dollars over five years. This includes $50 million dollars to be prioritized by you, at the City Council Special Committee on Parks & Quality of Life.

In addition, I’m committing $15 million dollars for renovations at Met Park and $25 million for the new park at Riverfront Plaza, the previous site of the Landing. A demonstration of my dedication to a series of riverfront parks located in downtown Jacksonville, and connected by safe, public walking paths.

I’m also allocating funds for Arts and Entertainment in the City of Jacksonville with $12 million dollars for the Jacksonville fairgrounds relocation, $5 million for the Jacksonville Zoo and $5.5 million over five years for the Florida Theater. These are just some of the highlights of my commitment to a vibrant artistic and cultural life in our city.


My commitment to public safety has never wavered and once again, that is reflected in this budget. We continue to work to build stronger relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve. We do that through efforts like community policing, prevention and intervention programs that show care for everyone in our communities – that their lives matter. For that reason, this budget has an additional 37.5 million dollars for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office this coming fiscal year. This brings continued strategic investments in technologies, resources, and personnel for law enforcement to support their mission to serve and protect the people of Jacksonville.

Make no mistake, the ability to have cops on the street is the most effective tool for our neighborhoods to be safe. That is why I added 224 new positions with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office since first taking office.

Public safety includes a strong Fire and Rescue department. That’s why we spearheaded the increase of $34.7 million dollars for JFRD.  In doing so, we have added nearly 500 new positions within the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department during my time in office, along with the six new, standalone stations. A marked difference from the ONE station that was opened during the previous administration. We have also been able to fund the restoration or relocation of 8 existing stations during my 2 terms. 

Also, I am proud to say that Jacksonville Fire Rescue is leading the way in life saving measures and technology by making it a priority to have at least one rescue unit assigned to each station.
Today every engine, rescue, ladder truck, and marine unit carries all the lifesaving drugs and equipment outlined by national standards, with my effort and in concert with JFRD leadership, they are now the largest All-Advanced Life Support Department in the country! I also supported JFRD starting the Apprentice Program which has allowed the department to continue to become more diverse and representative of the people they serve.

Because of these investments, our fire department earned the highest possible Insurance Services Office, or ISO rating, for fire safety, Class 1 – making us the largest city in the nation with the distinction.

As I mentioned earlier, insurance agencies rely on ratings from the ISO to determine risk and set insurance premiums. This Class 1 rating and other Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department improvements saved taxpayers over $100 MILLION dollars in insurance premiums in 2021, alone. With health and wellness investments for first-responders, we are making sure that our men and women on the front line have the physical and mental health to take on a tough job.

We are nothing without the men and women who chose to protect and serve, so I have been and will remain committed to them having what they need to fulfill their mission and make it home safely to their families.


I have said from the very beginning, you cannot be a suburb of nowhere. Since taking office, I have been committed to changing our Downtown skyline and seeing Downtown Jacksonville meet its potential. Already, we have two billion dollars’ worth of development projects completed or under construction here in downtown. We cannot lose that momentum.

That is why this budget allocates an additional 100 million dollars for downtown revitalization and related projects. This money will go to major improvements to attract more private investment downtown and enhance the experience for citizens and visitors alike.

The St. Johns River is one of our key downtown assets, and developing the area around it, with the addition of a museum and cultural district, Riverfront Plaza, and continued world-class entertainment, will be a major driver of growth and development. Jacksonville wouldn’t be where it is today without our sports and entertainment venues. Providing the space for professional sports and amazing entertainment performances has put Jacksonville on an international stage.

That is why this budget provides 36 million dollars to the new Stadium Performance Center approved last year and 25 million dollars to update and upgrade our baseball stadium over the next 3 years.


The Kids Hope Alliance has been a dream of mine since taking office. With the help of our community partners, we were able to make it a reality in 2018. Kids Hope Alliance (KHA) has continued to build momentum in its efforts to improve outcomes for thousands of kids living in Duval County.  The millions invested in our quality programs have expanded access to critical services and helped more young people achieve their academic, career and civic potential.

Recently, KHA joined Jacksonville Public Education Fund, Duval County Public Schools, the Early Learning Coalition of Duval County, and the Jacksonville Public Library to found and fund Read Jax, a collaboration promoting early literacy. I, along with Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene, have led this countywide initiative to improve third grade reading scores throughout all the Duval County Public Schools.

In the past four years, my Youth at Work Partnership Program has helped more than 1,400 students gain critical skills and career development by completing internships with local businesses, non-profits, and government agencies. This program was started as a summer program, but by the summer of 2020 it was clear it needed to be expanded into a year-long program. Working with Goodwill Industries of North Florida has ensured this program will be sustained and successful for generations of young people.

We transferred Diversion programming from the State Attorney’s Office to KHA, fulfilling a key recommendation of the Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee. This transition made an immediate impact on youth involved in the justice system.  Of the youth who have completed the Diversion program, administered by the Partnership for Child Health, 94% have not reoffended within six months of completion. So, this budget provides additional dollars for KHA to sustain that mission.

And, through KHA’s expansion of the Full-Service Schools program, schools have gained additional school-based mental health professionals, resulting in faster, easier access for students’ needs.

A recent two-year study on student progress has shown that students who participated in KHA-funded programs had better academic and behavioral progress than those who did not. It was additionally noted that Duval County Public School students who received KHA programing attended school more often, scored higher on academic assessments, and had fewer discipline problems than peers who did not participate in afterschool programs.

Continued investment in KHA means more children reached and more lives changed, which is why the increase in funding I’ve proposed in this year’s budget is so substantial.

Jacksonville is special. We know this for a variety of reasons but one of these is being home to the largest park system in North America.

The City of Jacksonville maintains over 400 public and recreational spaces, ranging from traditional neighborhood parks and community centers to renowned nature preserves.

The number of citizens using our parks continues to increase by almost 20,000 people every year. A major priority for our city and neighborhoods should be investing in these parks and recreational spaces, and this budget reflects that commitment.

That is why my administration is committing $108 million dollars to park upgrades and renovations this fiscal year.  I’ve included over $10 million dollars to replace 60 playgrounds throughout the city, in addition to the 29 new playgrounds already completed.

To date, we have begun or completed over 17 large-scale projects, including renovations to iconic Jacksonville landmarks like Friendship Fountain, the creation of new shared-use pathways and greenspaces along the Emerald Trail and in the LaVilla District, the development of various new parks and dog parks throughout the city, the creation of new hiking and biking trails, and the renovation of historic landmarks like the JP Small Museum and stadium.

My administration has also planted over 1,200 trees in parks across the city and has sponsored public art and murals throughout the city’s parks.

Our river and the surrounding waterways are a national treasure and preserving our watershed and maintaining a healthy ecosystem that generations of people can enjoy is one of my top investments. What good is our waterway if we cannot enjoy it?  That’s why this budget continues my work to increase access and upgrade public spaces on the water.

Like many of you, my family and I enjoy visiting our city’s excellent library system. It is important to have clean, comfortable, and engaging spaces to gather, to access information, and to use technology for learning and growth. So you will see considerable funding for facilities, materials, and public events in this budget.

This includes finalizing design and starting construction of a new, much-needed, library near Oceanway -- the first new library in our city since 2006.

Since first taking office, we have funded six-day per-week service at our 21 library locations, and since then nearly 400,000 new library cards have been issued to Duval residents. Many of these came through the launch of the Duval County Public School student card, which gives all 130,000 Duval County Public School students a library card for the entire time they’re enrolled. These cards enable our students to access resources for homework assistance, computers and technology, and fun programs with engaging activities that promote learning.

While the Library’s collection of books, videos and other materials has increased during my administration, the biggest change has been the transition to eBooks, audiobooks and streaming video.  In FY22, we routinely saw more than 10,000 digital borrowers per week and over the past six weeks we’ve set new records of more than 13,000 customers per week. 

With over 70 meeting and study rooms throughout the library system and a 20,000 square foot conference center at the main library, Jacksonville residents have come together for thousands of meetings and events each year.

Furthermore, our public library downtown served a vital role in the city’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. First as a processing center for the Mortgage-Rent-Utility program that helped people pay their bills when COVID hit their income, and again by providing space for more than 11,000 people to receive life-saving antibody therapies for free, a move that eased the burden on our already stressed hospitals and healthcare workers. It is also important to me and my administration to provide lifelong learning opportunities for people of all ages.

The Library has helped hundreds of adults who did not finish high school receive their diploma and move on to new jobs or other educational programs. Some experts estimate that each high school dropout can cost the taxpayers an average of $300,000 over their lifetime, the fact that our libraries can help reverse this trend is important to all of us, and I’m glad we will be continuing that great work. 


Jacksonville truly is a city on the rise, and if we keep doing the work, the best is yet to come.

Before I close, I want to come back to our amazing employees at the City of Jacksonville. The men and women, who despite the significant hardships and uncertainties of the past few years, kept this City running, designed and administered pandemic recovery programs which boosted the local economy faster than most, and set us up for the successes we can build upon today.

I want to extend a heartfelt thank you for this opportunity to come before you for the last time and present my vision for the next budget year. I am grateful to have had this chance to serve alongside each one of you and I am optimistic for what the future holds.

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 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.