JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mayor Lenny Curry told City Council members Monday that the $1.15 billion budget he proposes for Jacksonville in 2016-2017 will be lean for every aspect of city government other than the Sheriff's Office.
Curry told City Council Monday morning that he is funding 40 new police officers and 40 additional community service officers, but there will be no new firefighters, fire stations or library hours, no funding for proposed downtown development projects, and only minimal repairs to streets and sidewalks.
"We've got to make sure this is a safe city," Curry said. " Public safety is one place we should not be doing more with less."
Despite the lean budget, Curry said he is sensitive to the special needs of part of the city.
"We've got to make some of the wrongs of the past right for all of our neighborhoods and ZIP codes," Curry said. "Unfortunately this budget is also no to a long list of needs. A list of asks from people and constituency groups and a list of things I want to do (that) just, frankly, had to say no to in this budget."
The mayor is pushing for a new, half-cent sales tax to fund the city’s pension obligation, which would begin in 2030 when the Better Jacksonville Tax expires. Voters will cast ballots on that proposal in the Aug. 30 primary. But even if that were to pass, it would not affect the budget year that begins in October, and perhaps not for years to come.
"It is the most important issue facing our city right now," Curry said.
Curry said that if the city does nothing, the 27 percent of Jacksonville's city budget that funds the pension deficit will continue to grow.
Curry said he supports Sheriff Mike Williams' commitment to a pilot project to equip officers with body cameras, but most of that spending will be funded next year.
Over the next two months, City Council comb through the budget at a series of hearings. It must be passed by the full council by late September as the new budget year begins Oct. 1.
City Council President Lori Boyer said she doesn't see anything that's out of the ordinary that would complicate that process.
"At this point I can't tell you anything I heard I would automatically say I strongly disagree with," Boyer said.
"I do understand the mayor's position as well," Councilman Reggie Brown said. "You have to take care of some of the basic needs of Jacksonville."
To Councilwoman Joyce Morgan, the fact that Curry said no to so many requests the mayor denied.
"I think when he said no, he said no to Hemming Park. The $500,000, and he said no," Morgan said.
John Winkler, of Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County, wasn't impressed.
"I expected this to be used as a sales pitch on the 'Yes for Jacksonville' campaign and that's exactly what it was," said John Winkler,