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Source: 'This could be the biggest thing in Jacksonville since the City and the County consolidated'

7:10 PM, Jul 6, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It was a private idea, until First Coast News found out about it. Not even all of City Council knows about it. Until now.

Some on the Council are trying to find ways to possibly get hundreds of millions of your tax and fee money from agencies you use every day. 

The Council might want to take that money, so the city can use it on other projects. It's so controversial, a councilman who agreed to speak with us on camera, backed out.

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Sources say this could divide City Council and the City.
They say it could be the biggest thing to happen on the First Coast since the City and the County consolidated in 1968. It all has to do your tax money, and what some people want to do with it.

This could impact all City agencies and authorities, including the major ones.

"I don't know what you were told or who told you in what context, but all of the various independent authorities have large cash balances in accounts," Council President Bill Bishop said.

That includes JEA, Jacksonville Port Authority, Jacksonville Aviation Authority, which runs the Jacksonville International Airport and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority. 

"The City itself as an entity really doesn't know how they operate other than what they tell us, and so that part is a good idea just to dig and find out what they do so we have a better understanding of what they do. It's unfortunately the typical nature of how these things work," Bishop said.

Sources tell us City Council's plan could be to target unused money at these agencies for new City construction projects that could stimulate the local economy. Possibly hundreds of millions of dollars, some of that your tax and fee money. Some council members say that money is just sitting in accounts.

"We have basically institutionally forgotten what the point of these organizations are. And that's why we need a better handle on what they do, why they do it and remember that they do it for us, not for themselves. The airport authority doesn't run airports for the benefit of the airport authority, they run the airport for the betterment of the City," Bishop said.

We understand the money could be used for projects similar to those produced from the Better Jacksonville Plan. Facilities you may use every day. Like the controversial $350 million courthouse. The Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, a building where we exposed construction defects. Also, the main library, which has had problems with water leaks, and the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

"We have done a very poor job of managing money we have been given," said Councilmember Matt Schellenberg said.  

Strong words from a Councilman in charge of your money.  Schellenberg did not know about this proposal until we called him.  But he does not think it's a good or responsible use of your tax dollars. 

"And we're going to take that money and build something because we think it's a better policy outside the realm of what their responsibilities are. That's wrong. And the reason why they're doing it is because they know they can't get any tax monies because the citizens believe we haven't spent it very well.  And that part, I one hundred percent agree with them," he explained.

Now you see why this is so controversial. We understand City Council will start forming committees in the next few weeks to start analyzing what we have just told you.

First Coast News

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