Jacksonville’s city government has a new budget for the fiscal year beginning Friday that calls for spending nearly $3.5 billion just on the core government functions.
Once again, the local media are misleading their viewers and readers by telling them the budget for next year is only $1.5 billion.
If the reporters would simply look at the budget they would see that it is not true.
It is spelled out clearly in the mayor’s proposed budget and the budget ordinance enacted by the City Council Tuesday. The cost of all city government functions next year will be nearly $6.6 billion, even with transfers between funds netted out.
This includes $513 billion in capital outlay for the general government alone, which is a substantial increase from previous years because of a new local gas tax and a hefty handout from the federal government.
When the cost of the local school system – something determined by a different set of politicians – is considered, local government costs Jacksonville residents $8 billion plus.
Of course politicians like to minimize perceptions of their impact on the private sector, so they have persuaded the compliant local media to report only the spending in the city’s general fund as “the budget” because it is funded by property taxes and fees.
But all of the money spent by the government comes out of the private sector. It isn’t delivered by storks or the Tooth Fairy.
The JEA, for example, is funded by electricity, water and sewer rates paid by local citizens, and part of what they pay goes to the city government “in lieu of taxes,” meaning it otherwise would come from higher property taxes.
The council voted 17-1 to approve the $6 billion budget. The one dissenting voice was Council Member Rory Diamond, who argued for a rollback in the tax rate. Three other conservatives agreed with his proposal but he was the only one to vote against the budget.
Each budget submitted by Mayor Lenny Curry has kept the property tax rate flat, using growth to cover the increased spending. Diamond wanted to actually lower the rate by using some of the ample reserve funds in the budget.
“We raised taxes on every homeowner in Jacksonville,” Diamond told Eye on Jacksonville.
“I tried to get the council to keep taxes even but they voted it down.
“I simply can’t support that. I’m a conservative whether or not it’s a campaign year.”
The administration’s rather lame response was that bond rating agencies might lower the city’s bond rating, which could increase interest costs. No supporting documentation was given for that prophecy.
(We would ask budget officials for details but the administration has blacklisted Eye on Jacksonville, apparently for reporting facts accurately.)