In their in-depth analysis of the city’s finances, the Jacksonville Civic Council has made a good case that the city enjoys low taxes and spends accordingly.
However, the report treats this as a bad thing.
If a city can keep up with its needs and still maintain a low level of taxation, most property owners would not squawk.
Instead, they might praise local politicians for their good stewardship.
It is somewhat analogous to the way teacher union bosses focus on how much is spent on government schools, rather than how well they educate children.
The JCC report contains a wealth of detail about revenue and expenses in five areas of Florida, including Duval.
It shows that Jacksonville has low tax rates and spends less than other areas on infrastructure, even though local taxpayers have “invested” – as politicians like to call it – billions of dollars on infrastructure.
But the report takes to no notice whatsoever on the ability of Jacksonville residents to pay.
Compared to the other areas, Jacksonville is poor.
This data from the federal government compares the per capita income in Florida counties.
As the table shows, Duval is the least affluent of the counties used in the civic council’s comparison except for Orange County. It is unique in that Disney World takes up much of the county and provides its own services and infrastructure via the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
There’s another factor.
If you do an internet search for “unmet infrastructure needs” in any of the other five counties used in the comparison, you will find countless newspaper stories bemoaning the terrible state of the local infrastructure. It’s just a government thing, being perpetually behind in the amount of public works engineers would consider adequate.
Rather than just considering dollars in and dollars out, the report would have been more helpful if it compared actual accomplishments.
How many miles of unpaved roads are there? How many people do not have water and sewer service? What actual harm is being done by any lack of infrastructure?
The figure Eye on Jacksonville would like to see is, how many billions of dollars would it take to get Jacksonville in shape?
One minor beef with the JCC report is that it attempts to link spending on police with the crime rate. Eye is not aware of any such link being established. An opinion piece in the Washington Post said, in fact, “A review of spending on state and local police over the past 60 years, though, shows no correlation nationally between spending and crime rates.”
One reason the city enjoys the low tax rates documented by the civic council is the consolidation of city and county governments more than a half-century ago, eliminating much waste and duplication.
Because of that, the consolidated city was able to reduce tax rates for 10 years in a row.
At the same time it was spending billions improving infrastructure the county’s crooked politicians had neglected for years while stuffing their pockets.
Those other counties in Florida had the opportunity to consolidate also. If they had, perhaps their tax rates would be as low as they are in Jacksonville. Broward, for example, is a mess, with 31 municipalities contained within its borders.
Local taxpayers should not be shamed into thinking they have failed to do their duty by not spending more of their family’s funds on fulfilling the wishes of politicians. They have shown themselves willing to pay more when actual need is shown, as they did by supporting the $2.25 billion Better Jacksonville Plan.