During the current fiscal year, the city of Jacksonville will spend nearly $7.7 billion as the result of the City Council’s recent approval of a budget.
For some reason, the other local media persists in reporting city government spending as $1.75 billion, about 23 percent of the actual figure.
Even the best newspaper in town, the Daily Record, uses this figure although it does correctly identify it as only the general fund of the budget. Not all media outlets do.
Eye on Jacksonville suspects this is either from laziness or ignorance.
Over the years, the local government has tightened up access so much that reporters have become accustomed to writing news stories based on press releases.
Instead of attending meetings, looking at public records and talking to politicians and bureaucrats, they just report what they are told. In this case, they report “Mayor Deegan’s budget is $1.75 billion.”
Well, if you ignore most of the activities of the general government and the independent agencies, that is true.
Here is the summary of the actual budget, as presented by the council auditor to the council’s Finance Committee:
“The General Fund comprises $1.7 billion in expenditures, approximately half of the overall $3.9 billion City budget (General Fund, special revenue funds, enterprise funds, capital projects, and internal service funds). Increasing property values and new growth have produced 12.93% more tax revenue ($122 million) for the next fiscal year over the current year. Adoption of the 3 millage ordinances will require a 2/3 vote of Council.
“The total budget to be approved, City plus independent authorities, but excluding the school system, is $7.76 billion.”
That latter figure is what the council approved Sept. 26.
(Internal service funds, which are payments from one city department to another, are duplicated and must be netted out but that does not make an appreciable difference.)
Local politicians spend billions of dollars every year. Some comes from the state and federal government, and some is from fees rather than taxes, but it still is Other People’s Money.
Telling Jacksonville citizens that the amount spent is less than a fourth of the actual figure is dishonest.