Local CPA is questioning figures in the Jaguars lease

Mayor Donna Deegan and members of the City Council have been asked to do a financial analysis of the proposed lease with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jack Meeks, a certified public accountant, noted:

The city’s pension liability is approximately $3 billion and growing at approximately $200 million annually before further increases are anticipated in the stadium proposal, and the city already has a negative net worth of approximately $1.5 billion.

Meeks said he is seeking an analysis that would make clear the effects of the stadium proposal on the financial circumstances and quality-of-life needs, starting with public safety.

For several years the annual independent audit of the city’s finances has been late, which City Hall has blamed on problems with computer software.

The Sept. 30, 2023, annual audit has not been issued even though the city requires issuance within six months after the fiscal year end and the state requires issuance within nine months.

“In my opinion, a well-run organization with good accounting can issue its audited financial statements within three months of its fiscal year-end,” Meeks said.

Meek, who also sits on the city’s Planning Commission, gave his own analysis of the audit’s findings:

The so-called “pension fix” was not a real fix and has left a ballooning pension liability and at present an unacceptable pay package for first responders, Weeks said. They do not have a defined benefit pension plan which makes the city virtually unique, and the pay rates are also uncompetitive, he said.

“My wife and I have seen the results of inadequate JSO staffing with the police response substantially worse over the last five years or so. We bought our home in Historic Springfield over 21 years ago and have made dozens of calls to JSO over the ensuing years resulting from being shot at to theft and property damage.”

He cited several problems he has had with crime at his Springfield home and said he has hired a private security firm because of the inability of the police to provide adequate protection.

Meeks said, “Our city’s poor financial condition, poor bookkeeping, untimely financial statements, and poor internal controls, make us a less-than-desirable risk for new bond funding. Accordingly, the present stadium proposal seeks to delay payments from the sales tax that would otherwise go to the pension deficit as opposed to seeking new bond funding. My financial analysis request would, among other items, determine how much more our pension liability would increase due to the stadium proposal.”

The council is examining the lease proposal now. It calls for the city and football team to split the construction costs and each also would spend $150 million on “community benefits.”

Weeks said it seems overly complicated to mix neighborhood improvements with the stadium proposal. The Jaguars contribution of $150 million at $5 million a year for 30 years actually is $75 million or less at present value depending on the discount rate used, he said.

“It seems simpler to reduce our stadium contribution and get the Jags out of neighborhood improvements.”

“Perhaps the best way to answer most if not all of these questions and provide full transparency is to compare two five-year projections of revenues and expenses, cash flows, and balance sheets with and without the stadium deal,” Meeks said in his letter to Deegan.

He expressed to Deegan his concern that the proposed Jaguars lease will starve funds needed for quality-of-life issues and further increase the gulf between wealthy and poorer neighborhoods.

Lloyd Brown

Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida. He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union. He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.


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