Police, fire leaders like mayor's budget proposal


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One day after Mayor Lenny Curry's $1.14 billion budget was filed for review by Jacksonville City Council, most reaction has been positive.

The budget includes funding for more 40 more police officers, five new police stations and road improvements.  Most people are happy to hear the mayor is keeping to campaign promises to put more resources into public safety.

While police and fire union representatives like the additional money going to their departments, city employees are not happy they won't be getting a raise next year.

City Council President Greg Anderson is just beginning to digest the spending plan,is biggest surprise was how early the budget was filed, since Curry had until Monday, when it will be formally presented, to provide the budget breakdown.

"The preliminary indications that I have are: 1) IT is balanced. -- that is a great thing; 2) That it matches priorities of the community, which is public safety (and) infrastructure; And it maintains a lot of critical quality-of-life programs, as well," Anderson said.

Anderson says there is no proposed tax increase since extra money is coming into the city because property values have increased, as well as sales tax revenues from the state.

The budget does call for the city to borrow money to replace an aging fleet of police cars and other city vehicles.

Jacksonville Association of Firefighters President Randy Wyse had not seen the budget breakdown, but was glad to hear the fire department could be getting $14 million in additional revenue.

"Good Lord, for six or seven years we've been really cut a lot," said Wyse. "It's exciting to see that there are some increases there. I just hope there are some increases that would affect the employees. Brick-and-mortar is good -- it's good for public safety -- but it takes men and omen to staff those new stations."

That same sentiment is being echoed by Fraternal Order of Police President Steve Amos. He was glad to hear they will be using federal grant money to hire 40 new police officers and fund 40 community service officers -- a category of employees that was eliminated during budget cutting over the last few years.

"CSO are force multipliers. They will free up officers on these highway crashes and writing reports on calls," said Amos. "We have to plug the hole in the damn."

Newly elected Sheriff Mike Williams was not available Thursday, but issued this statement:

"I appreciate the work being done by Mayor Curry and his team regarding the budget, as they work to restore 40 sworn officers and 40 civilian community service officers. Naturally I will review the details of the proposed budget when it's available,and I look forward to working with the Mayor, his team, and the Council as we collaborate to reduce crime in Jacksonville and fund public safety."