JACKSONVILLE, Fla — The Republican National Convention never happened in Jacksonville, but the city still could end up absorbing $154,000 in convention-planning expenses "above and beyond" City Hall's normal day-to-day operating costs, according to information given Wednesday to City Council members.
More than half the cost stemmed from overtime pay for employees working to prepare for the convention, mainly by Jacksonville Sheriff's Office employees who were tasked with getting security preparations done in a tight time frame.
in addition to costs for overtime pay, a firm enlisted to help the city comply with federal grants tied to the convention submitted a bill for almost $70,000. The city is reviewing that invoice before paying it.
Jacksonville won the competition to host most of the convention in late August after President Donald Trump soured on original host city Charlotte, N.C. But six weeks after Jacksonville got the nod, Trump decided July 23 against having the convention here because of public health concerns caused by a summertime surge in COVID-19 virus infections.
City Council Auditor Kim Taylor sent the information about financial costs Wednesday to council members. Council member Garrett Dennis requested the review during a July 24 public meeting that happened the day after Trump decided against having the convention in Jacksonville.
Jordan Elsbury, chief of staff for Mayor Lenny Curry, said at the July 24 meeting that the city spent staff time but no taxpayer dollars on the convention. He said that "any time a special event comes to Jacksonville," the city's emergency operations center and the Sheriff's Office work on preparing for it.
If the convention actually had taken place in Jacksonville, the city's cost would have been in the tens of millions of dollars for security expenses, but a federal grant would have reimbursed city expenses for manpower and equipment to keep convention attendees safe.
Other costs associated with a convention would have been paid for by a local host committee responsible for raising millions of dollars in private donations.
It's not clear how much the host committee raised. Federal Election Commission data shows 2020 Jacksonville Host Committee, Inc. is registered as a committee, but the FEC does not show any reports for money raised and spent by that committee.
The $153,602.68 only includes additional costs to the city over and above normal operating costs.