JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Where will money go in Jacksonville?
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry presents his budget proposal to the city council Thursday morning. He plans to propose a reduction in the property tax rate and is expected to propose a budget increase for Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. His capital improvement plan highlights public safety and city parks.
Curry took to Twitter Wednesday stating the property tax rate cut he plans to propose would be the first since 2007. He didn't say how much the cut may be. On Twitter he states since July 2015, the city's debt has been reduced by over $560 million and city reserves are nearly $350 million.
"Until I see the specifics of what he's proposing and exactly the budget, it's kind of hard to comment on how it will be received by the council and the finance committee," said City Council Vice President Ron Salem who is on the finance committee.
Curry is also expected to propose reportedly $540 million for JSO. Michael Sampson is the executive director of Jacksonville Community Action Committee, which rallied against JSO's budget last year when it was almost $40 million less.
"Every year under the current administration they've gotten an increase," Sampson said. "Yet we still haven't seen the results on the street."
First Coast News asked Salem if $540 million was too much for JSO.
"No, not necessarily," he answered. "I mean, we have to get into the budget. So much of that is related to benefits and pensions and those kinds of things."
Both Salem and Sampson believe investing in mental health is important.
"We've implemented a program where we're diverting mental health who have committed a misdemeanor out of the jail into treatment," Salem said. "I'm not in favor of defunding the police, but I think there are programs we can put in place that are more appropriate for those types of individuals."
"Instead of giving JSO $40 million, what if they got half of that and the other funding was going towards crime reduction, was going towards mental health services, was going towards expanding the mental health correspondent program?" said Sampson. "Because things like that have shown to have acute metric in terms of reducing crime or reducing incidents with law enforcement, but to just continuously throw money at the problem, there's more than enough years of evidence showing that that just hasn't worked and won't work."
Curry wants one of the biggest chunks of money in the capital improvement plan, $244 million, to go toward replacing the Duval County Jail. The capital improvement plan is for large, longer-term projects and although this project is listed in the city's five-year fiscal plan, there's currently no funding until at least 2027.
In the capital improvement plan Curry is proposing $500 thousand for Confederate monument removal, $27 million for three new fire stations and $60 million for Lot R Stadium Performance Center, which is almost double what the budget was for that last year. He stated on Twitter he wants more money toward the Kids Hope Alliance, library funding and downtown revitalization.
The mayor's presentation is at 9 a.m. If the city council approves it, the budget will take effect October 1.