JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida lawmakers still have to approve the final version of the record $101.5 billion budget for the upcoming year. They are set to vote Friday and end the regular legislative session on time.
Among the items in the massive budget is $6 million for the septic tank phaseout project in Jacksonville.
City officials had been hoping for the additional funding to be included to help offset the cost of the long overdue project after the Jacksonville City Council voted to approve more than $14 million in city funding to phase out the failing septic tanks
The city would use the $6 million in state funds to connect homes that have failing septic tanks to city sewer service instead.
State Sen. Aaron Bean told News4Jax the real MVP behind Jacksonville getting this money is state Rep. Wyman Duggan, who initially made the request to the Legislature.
Earlier this year, the city of Jacksonville announced that it underestimated the cost of phasing out hundreds of septic tanks in the Christobel neighborhood and didn’t have money to complete the project. This $6 million will fill that void. The request for state funds still requires the review of Gov. Ron DeSantis, but Bean said lawmakers are on the same page in realizing the importance of phasing out septic tanks.
“We are having new data that shows how devastating a leaking septic tank or leaky sewer system when it goes into the environment. It can ruin our freshwater, and so that’s becoming more widespread, common knowledge, and so there is an effort, not just in Jacksonville, but across the state to get the resources to begin the conversions,” Bean said. “There are millions of septic tanks right now.”
Bean had previously told News4Jax that he was optimistic about getting at least some of the funding for the city’s project because lawmakers saw septic tank phaseout as a priority statewide.
Jacksonville’s septic tank phaseout program is also receiving $12.5 million from JEA.
The city of Jacksonville may be eligible for additional money through a grant program that converts septic to sewer services. The grant program has $200 million available. The city of Jacksonville would have to apply for that grant.
House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, announced that the state budget went to lawmakers at 12:06 p.m. Tuesday, starting a legally required 72-hour “cooling off” period before the spending plan can be approved. The 60-day legislative session is scheduled to end Friday, and the budget is the only bill lawmakers must pass.
House and Senate leaders finished negotiating the budget Monday night, after reaching agreement on spending about $6.7 billion in federal COVID-19 stimulus money.
The state expects to receive about $10 billion through the American Rescue Plan Act, with unspent money going into state reserves.
“I do believe we will continue to see some fluctuation and some uncertainty as our economy recovers,” Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, said in a prepared statement Tuesday. “With this reality in mind, our budget utilizes available federal funding to make some significant nonrecurring investments in key infrastructure priorities that will create jobs and further bolster Florida’s recovering economy. "
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.