City Council going ahead with major cuts

Finance committee recommends no new projects or programs

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville City Council is following through on its threat to make major budget cuts, as was discussed at a finance committee meeting Friday.

Among the cuts: Plans by the mayor to make changes to the Jacksonville Landing and the Northbank riverfront would be slashed; new books for libraries would be no more; and plans to borrow $240 million for new projects would be gone from the budget.

The council said that higher costs are the reason for the cuts, despite the growing economy, and it said the government needs to be flat.

Members said the city can't afford new projects or programs, which they said is frustrating.

"The idea that we're not going to buy books for our libraries, I mean, we closed a library this year," said Richard Clark, chairman of the finance committee. "I mean, people are shooting each other every day and I can't hire more police officers. It's an incredibly difficult process. But that's literally where we're at as a city. And if we don't hold the bar flat this year, next year we will have no more reserves. We will be at zero."

The council said it is tired of getting different numbers from Mayor Alvin Brown's administration.

"You can't continue on this road," Clark said. "We are literally dangling over the cliff. And if you continue down this path, we're going to fall over."

Among the new projects slashed were $500,000 for new library books and materials.

"Cutting materials is regrettable," said library supporter Harry Reagan. "Every year you need to buy new books, you need to renew subscriptions. That's a budget (cut) that hurts."

The plan from the mayor is to borrow over $240 million from the city's banking fund, which is like a credit card. The council is saying no way. One of those projects is the $11.8 million to change and open up the Landing.

"I think the Landing project is vital," said Toney Sleiman, of the Landing. "I mean, if you look at the public, in the public comments that's going and the talk about it, you know downtown is tired and we need some revitalization."

Other cuts would include $700,000 for the Jacksonville Armada FC soccer team to rework the field at the Baseball Grounds. And the council would cut the number of early voting sites in half.

"There were some surprising cuts, and we're going to continue to work with the City Council," said Chris Hand, of the mayor's office.

The committee will recommend its budget to the full council, which will later vote on it.

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