Fireworks animate Jax Public Works budget review - Florida Politics

Fireworks animate Jax Public Works budget review

The annual review of departmental budgets continued Tuesday morning in the office of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, with Public Works on tap.

Though not exactly a hot topic, the discussion was made more lively by repeated questions from the Mayor’s Budget Review Committee to Public Works people about specific line items.

And made more lively still, as Public Works noted that more people are needed for the city’s ambitious capital improvement plan — which may get more ambitious still in the July budget.

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Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa noted early in the meeting that pending Council legislation will authorize a city arborist for purposes of tree mitigation.

In terms of “performance indicators,” some interesting tidbits:

Pavement management came up early; 92 miles of a total 100 projected have been resurfaced, rejuvenated, or microsurfaced in the past year, said a Public Works rep.

Grass mowing, an eternal struggle for the city, is under projections this year; Mousa observed that it will “blow up” as the summer progresses. There is a cost impact: in the stormwater fund alone, $1.8M is allocated for mowing around retention ponds and the like.

Sign and signal inspections also piqued Mousa’s interest, as he wants more detail on what the inspector is doing, especially when working at night.

A discussion of a preventive maintenance contract on traffic signals also was a point of discussion, including what are called more stringent requirements of both checking and documentation by FDOT.

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Also of note: a discussion of workers comp allocation in public works — an increase in $525,000, according to Mousa — was disputed, with Public Works saying the allocation was essentially “flat” year over year.

LED Streetlight Conversions, meanwhile, are “ripping and running” per Public Works, with 56,000 of 113,000 streetlights converted, and cost savings beginning to surface.

Mousa was surprised, meanwhile, by a general fund allocation for remediating illegal dumping.

After less than half an hour, Mousa raised a troubling question: “How closely was this budget scrutinized?”

The discussion was nowhere near wrapped, however.

Capital projects, such as the Florida Theater, had shortfalls in allocations for workers — which means that the department was working “pro bono” at times.

“There’s only so many people in Engineering, 27 FTEs,” Public Works noted.

Mousa noted that “depending on what the Mayor does with CIP, there could be significant capital projects — could be.”

Public Works, while “super-grateful for capital money,” maintains that a staff shortfall still exists.

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“How do you take into consideration all of the new development and how they will pay for stormwater fees,” Mousa wondered.

Historical growth factors in. As are discussions with the Building Department. And the city’s User Fee system.

Mousa seemed less than convinced, and the discussion bogged down into one of revenue and billing and money transfers.

The user fee increase, YOY in budget: $134,000. Revenues will be up, year over year, over a million dollars.

Mousa wanted verification, showing more disquiet with a budget more elastic than he would like.

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General liability insurance premiums: up $114,000.

“That’s a pretty big jump,” CFO Mike Weinstein remarked. “Such a big percentage increase.”

The theory: that the jump is claims-driven.

This departmental bump is unique to Public Works.

Mousa wanted more insight into the claims process.

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Enhancement requests were relatively sparse.

The department wants more money for hazardous tree removal, which is not doable out of the tree mitigation fund. An extra $250,000 was moved over this current year, pushing the total near $1.1M, with $955,000 dealing with hazard trees.

There may — or may not — be more money in the budget for this.

Mousa also had advice regarding sidewalk remediation, urging the department to pile on “one or two panel jobs” onto contractors already enlisted for bigger projects.

Mousa also wants to put $6,000 into the fund, for various real estate appraisals PW is tasked with. That money won’t go very far, but the department has it to work with.

 

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