Jacksonville, FL (Sept. 28, 2021) — City Council by a vote of 17 – 1, approved the main Budget Bill 2021-504, additionally adopting other budget bills 2021-501, 502, and 503 to pass the City of Jacksonville’s 2021-2022 Annual Budget. The debate was lengthy, amendments were considered but after many months of auditor reviews and a month-long review by the Finance Committee, the City Council landed on a final amount of $1.413 Billion just before adjourning by its midnight deadline in its meeting on September 28th, 2021.
Included in this year’s budget, by ordinance 2021-505, was a historic $494.7 Million in Capital Improvement Projects aimed at improving Jacksonville’s roadways and utility services. In funding the budget, the City Council did not increase the millage rate which will remain at $11.4419 per $1,000 of value after any reductions from homestead and other exemptions but many property owners will see an increase in their property tax bill due to strong sales within the real estate market leading to property values increasing across the county.
The Capital Improvement Projects portion of the budget, contained in 2021-505, included a slew of roadway projects and upgrades to existing infrastructure. One project of note is $10.6 Million allocated to major improvements for Race Track Road. This has been a priority project for Council Member Becton for many years and through his efforts and support from the Mayor’s Office, a plan was presented during the budget process and with support from his fellow Council Members, it was approved as an amendment to the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). Other projects funded through the budget for District 11 included:
- $1 Million for a public swimming pool to be built at Atlantic Coast High School;
- $700k for new traffic signal at Baymeadows Rd East – Stonebridge Village;
- $700k for new traffic signal at Baymeadows Rd East – Hampton Park;
- $448k for roof replacement at the SE Regional Library;
- $800k in additional improvements to Fort Family Park to convert the soon to be constructed Baseball Quadplex fields to Astro-turf;
- $600k in additional improvements to the Julington -Durbin Creek Amenities;
- $500 thousand allocated to Genovar Park in years out.
This year’s budget is an increase of approximately $72 million over the previous fiscal year. In looking at the major expenditures of that budget, 57.8% has been allocated to Public Safety, with $502m going to Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) and $315m to Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Dept (JFRD). Other major city departments receiving funding included 3.5% respectively to Public Works in the amount of $50.3m and Parks and Recreation & Community Services getting $49.5m.
In looking at the revenue to fund the budget, 80% comes from three areas. First, the local Ad Valorem revenue, which is the property taxes in which you pay that account for $796m or 59% of the budget income and up by 6.9% from last year. Second includes the contribution by JEA & other independent authorities which account for $136.5m or 10% and up by 11%. Lastly, it includes our State Shared Income. The State contributes $192m or 13.5% and up by 15%, despite the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic but as shown in our 2020 forecasts, the City of Jacksonville and the State has managed very well during these difficult times.
Several Floor Amendments offered to 2021-501, 502, and 503, proposed rolling back the millage rate to be in line with interlocal agreements. There was a lengthy debate regarding changing the millage rate on all three to off-set the cost to homeowners by pulling money from other sources. CM Becton grilled the Council Auditor and fellow Council Member Diamond on his amendment to describe exactly where this money would be coming from, and after a lengthy exchange it was discovered the $35 Million shortfall would be made up by dipping into the city’s $210 Million Operating Reserve Funds. Upon discovering this, Council Member Becton could not support the amendment. The amendment would go on to fail. During the debate, CM Becton stated the follow:
“When I first saw this amendment, describing the revenue to be used coming from as described as “General Fund Balance”, I came here excited to support this amendment, thinking that the $35m was being funded from within our current year’s budget surplus to offset the anticipated ad valorem increases our residents will receive next year. Tonight, what I have discovered is that this amendment is just raiding our reserves.
During our previous vote on the Gas Tax, it was known then that we were going to be seeing an increase in revenue to this year’s budget in an amount of approximately $56m at a minimum. But this Council passed the gas tax anyway. Therefore, tonight by the thought of trying to roll-back our millage, we either have to look at pulling from our reserves or we do committee work to look at how to trim our budget in amount equal to the $35m needed.
I find raiding our reserves to be an option of last resort. Our reserves are there for a reason to protect us during city disaster like the hurricanes that we see and to provide us big savings in borrowing cost from lower interest rates based on our city finances and bond rating as a result of being fiscally sound.
Therefore, the only option left is to find $35m dollars in our city’s budget and unfortunately, the time that we should have considered this option was back in the beginning of August when we passed the Trim Notice setting our millage rate, and before the Finance Committee spent a month balancing our budget.
As I applaud the thought and this idea before this Council, I cannot support dipping into those reserves and as the work to balance this budget has already been done, as much as I would have like to support a roll-back rate, this is not possible tonight. I thank you Council President for allowing me to state on the record why I cannot support the amendment”.
Before the vote was taken on 2021-504, there were also several other floor amendments introduced.
- A technical amendment to update the term sheet, which passed, Supported by CM Becton.
- An amendment aimed at having the council members maintain their base salaries for 2021-22, voting to opt out of the automatic pay increases but after much debate, this was voted down. CM Becton Voted Yes in support.
- An amendment sought to move funding of $390k from the NE Florida Regional Council (NEFRC) to the COJ Chief Resilience Officer’s budget. This amendment was voted down with CM Becton voting also voting against.
- An amendment proposed decreasing the budget line item for Solid Waste hauler contracts by 50 percent. This amendment was withdrawn by the amendment’s sponsor based on the commitment by the administration to give updates to the council on a solution to the city’s waste management issues.
- The last amendment was another technical amendment to eliminate the Johnston Island venture between COJ and Atlantic Beach and to move those funds from that project at the request of Atlantic Beach to their lifeguard stations. That amendment, passed with CM Becton voting to support.
The final vote for 2021-504 was held just after 10:45pm and passed the council by a vote of 17-1.
Overall, CM Becton had this to say about the 2021-2022 Budget upon passage:
“Our city has been blessed with growth and prosperity over the past 6 years. In my term on Council, I have witnessed an increase in revenue of $364m in our annual spending. In addition, I have seen our city taxes increase beginning with the previous half-cent Sales Tax extension for our pensions, the recent half-cent Sales Tax for our schools, and a doubling of our Gas Tax of six cents for infrastructure. All the while, our economy is witnessing possibly the highest inflation of goods and services in over 40 years.
While I am glad to see city-wide priorities for roadway improvements funded now in the amount of $24m and sidewalk repairs in the amount of $6m, I am always concerned with three things, 1) the ever-increasing growth and size of government, 2) the taxation of our citizens and their disposal income and 3) the liabilities and taxation that we are placing on our children and grandchildren in the future.
As I voted to pass this budget, I continue to fight for fiscal responsibility and living within our means but also, I ask our citizens, when is enough, enough? What I can share is that City Hall has not heard enough from you in that regard.”
For More Information on the 2021-22 Budget, Visit: