Fire equipment on line as City Council trims budget

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The City Council's Finance Committee on Wednesday continued hammering away at a $24 million hole in the city of Jacksonville's 2014-15 budget.

The committee spent much of the day prioritizing capital projects like road improvements and equipment purchases, giving some projects a green light to continue and others a warning that that they might get cut.

Having ruled out a property tax increase in July, council members are now trying to cut city jobs and impact local families to balance the budget.

Council members are focusing on dozens of capital Improvement programs from roadway resurfacing projects to buying new police and fire vehicles. One by one, Council Member Lori Boyer asked city department heads what projects they had planned for next year and how much they will cost.

"What we have done is eliminate potential increases," Boyer said. "There were potential increases in this budget and we said we have no money; we can't pay for that."

Fire Chief Martin Senteriftt expressed his department's budgetary concerns, explaining why they need $32 million over the next five years.

The chief says the Fire department paging system needs upgrading and their vehicles need to be replaced. He's asking for $7 million to purchase self-contained breathing apparatus devices, and money to move Station 56.

"The first three projects, I have to have those," Senterfitt said.

Boyer says the council will make the final decision on what to cut, because unfortunately the city doesn't have another dime to spend.

"The goal, from a budgetary standpoint, is to find out how much money we can use for capital projects next year," Council Member Greg Anderson said. "That's a step down the road. We're still digging into the numbers right now."

Council members say existing projects, such as the Southbank Riverwalk, construction take first priority, but the others that are awaiting financial approval risk being eliminated altogether.

The Finance Committee members didn't make any final decisions at Wednesday's meeting, but they are taking their recommendation to the full council for further discussion and possible action.

Copyright 2014 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.