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More than 100 city staff positions, libraries, fire stations and community centers fall victim to financial woes in budget

6:23 PM, Jul 14, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown's proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year calls for $61 million in service reductions

According to First Coast News' partner The Florida Times-Union, the reductions include the elimination of 120 positions and the closing of fire stations, libraries and swimming pools, according to the $953 million budget delivered to City Council Friday afternoon.

It does not include a property tax increase, a promise Brown made during his campaign.

For more than half of the $61 million reductions, the Mayor's Office has not identified the actual services or personnel that will be cut, but rather just reduced the division or department's budget to reach an overall 14 percent reduction. 

Most of the unknown reductions, $29 million, come from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff John Rutherford submitted a proposal last week that was only a 0.2 percent less than city's June 3 service budget. 

He refused to find the cuts the city has requested and said that the city will have to find the money elsewhere.

Funding for the city's $43 million share of EverBank Field's proposed scoreboards is not in the budget. David DeCamp, Brown's spokesman, said the city was still looking for the best option to finance the project.

"Any financing for this will be approved separate from what we're proposing Monday," he said.

The budget projects a $4.9 million increase from this year to $953 million. The 0.5 percent hike is due to increases in the state's shared revenue. Reductions are still necessary, though, because of the increases in benefits, salaries and pensions.

Property taxes are down $5.7 million, to $426 million, and there was a small $50,000 increase in sales taxes.

Brown is pushing for City Council to approve a proposed pension deal the administration calculates will save $45 million in the upcoming budget. 

Part of that savings comes from a $21 million payout from the Police and Fire Pension Fund. The remainder comes from the fund sticking with the assumption it is now using when it comes to how much it will earn on investments.

Identified cuts include the closing of six libraries, four fire stations, stopping the intake of over the counter animals and owner surrenders at Animal Care & Protective Services and the discontinuing of the city's Sexual Assault Response Center housed at the Victim Services Center.

Thirty-three of the eliminated positions are from the city's library department; 31 positions come from the parks and recreation department; and 75 of the total eliminations are filled positions. Last year Brown's budget proposal called for the elimination of 650 positions, 300 of which were filled.

The property tax rate will remain 10.0353 mills under Brown's plan. Because property value continues to decline, maintaining the same millage rate brings in less money.

The roll-back rate, or the millage that will bring in the same amount of revenue as the previous year, is 10.2107. This rate is often referred to as the "roll-up rate" when property values have decreased from the previous year. Using the roll-up rate would add another $7 million in revenue, according to the most recent figures.

The budget also shows five additional administrative positions in Brown's office. The positions aren't new for the city and the employees have already been working for the Mayor's Office, DeCamp said.

The move was a City Council request to see exactly how many employees were working for the Mayor's Office, DeCamp said. The employees were previously assigned to the administrative services division, which is now dissolved.

City Council now has more than two months to debate and make potential changes. The council must pass the budget by Oct. 1. During that time they will also be studying Brown's pension deal.
Brown will present his budget to the council at 9 a.m. Monday during a City Council meeting on the first floor at City Hall at 117 W. Duval St.

The Times-Union first made a written request for a draft of the budget Monday.

After leaving a Friday morning meeting where the budget was discussed, DeCamp told the Times-Union that no electronic or printed budget drafts existed as of about 10:15 a.m..

Approximately two hours later, he sent 52 pages of budget-related documents. About 4 p.m., DeCamp said a copy of the budget, a 409-page document, was available for pick up.

Times-Union writer Steve Patterson contributed to this report.

Want to weigh in on the Mayor's proposed budget? Here's how:

Mayor Alvin Brown

MayorBrown@Coj.net

Bill Gulliford, City Council President

Gulliford@coj.net

Clay Yarborough, City Council Vice President

Clay@coj.net

Greg Anderson, City Council Finance Committee Chair

GAnderson@coj.net

Florida Times-Union

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