“Our overriding goal in this budget is to protect taxpayers and invest in Jacksonville’s future,” said Mayor Brown. “It’s about getting the best return on our investment for the next generation. We have reached a point in the life of our community when we must seize the moment to use our resources to make not only a better today, but also a better tomorrow.”
Key areas of investment in the budget include:
The mayor said the Office of Economic Development will continue to work with JAX Chamber, JAXUSA Partnership and state economic development officials to promote business investment. Last year the City directly assisted 14 companies, creating nearly 2,000 new jobs with $360 million in new private capital investment.
Mayor Brown highlighted the success in securing Congressional authorization for the harbor deepening and Mile Point navigation projects to modernize and expand JAXPORT. The mayor has appointed a Port Task Force to support the port’s growth.
Pointing to export growth of more than 31 percent in the Jacksonville area since 2008, Mayor Brown said his budget will fund the new Office of International Trade to coordinate with JAXPORT and local companies to increase international trade opportunities and position Jacksonville to compete in a 21st century global economy.
To bolster the capacity of law enforcement to fight crime and protect Jacksonville’s neighborhoods, the mayor is recommending new funding for the Sheriff’s Office to hire 40 additional police officers and 40 additional community service officers.
The proposed budget also invests in crime prevention by adding resources to the Jacksonville Children’s Commission to expand the Summer Jobs Program for teens and offer more summer camp and after-school opportunities for youth.
The mayor’s budget recommends dedicating capital funds to leverage private investment for redevelopment of the Jacksonville Landing as a Downtown showcase with housing, entertainment and retail, as well as green space and a plaza opening the riverfront to Downtown.
The proposed budget will support environmental clean-up to prepare for private development of the City-owned Shipyards property. It also recommends funding to redesign Metropolitan Park and upgrade its capabilities as a major entertainment venue, and to remediate and demolish the old Duval County Courthouse. In addition, the budget recommends funding to design the transition from one-way to two-way streets in Downtown, as well as needed lighting and signage to improve safety and convenience for Downtown visitors.
QUALITY OF LIFE
To enhance quality of life, the mayor’s proposed budget will invest in increased maintenance and improvements at city parks – including restoring the shoreline at Huguenot Memorial Park, replacing the boardwalk and rebuilding the swimming pool at Blue Cypress Park, opening Touchton Park and improving the Equestrian Center.
The mayor’s budget invests in preserving the St. Johns River with initiatives to improve water quality. It proposes to increase the City’s investment in phasing out septic tanks and other water quality improvement projects. Moreover, the budget invests in extending City water lines to neighborhoods that were long ago promised but never given access to water infrastructure.
The proposed budget calls for upgrading several neighborhood senior centers. It will restore service hours at the Main Library and increase funding for new books and materials. In addition, through the Public Service Grant Program, it will strengthen the City’s partnership with nonprofit organizations to help families and individuals. It will also enhance the City’s partnership with cultural organizations through the Cultural Service Grant Program.
REVENUES AND EXPENSES
Although some revenues improved this year, these were offset by mandatory expense increases such as pension contributions ($11 million), workers’ compensation ($4.5 million), election administration ($3.1 million), venue utility costs ($2.7 million), juvenile detention ($2.6 million), health care ($1.8 million) and contractual economic development grants ($1.7 million).
Given the need to invest in key priorities that will help grow the revenue base and make a positive, lasting impact on Jacksonville for years to come, the mayor said the budget includes a one-time use of $16.8 million, or approximately 1.6 percent of the proposed budget, from the City’s financial reserves.
To address the City’s rising police and fire pension costs, the mayor also urged City Council approval of the agreement he reached with the Police and Fire Pension Fund to “achieve pension reform once and for all.”
The mayor’s proposed budget is submitted to City Council for review. By law, a final budget must be enacted by the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1.