On Monday, Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche gave her thoughts on the new City of Jacksonville proposed budget from Mayor Lenny Curry.
The $1.27B budget — up almost $80M from previous years — will see 100 new police officers and 42 new firefighters as part of an add of 175 jobs. As well, Curry intends to put more money into reserve accounts, including one for salary contingencies, as pension reform includes raises over the next three years for all employees.
Brosche noted that Curry had given her a high-level briefing on the new budget on Sunday, including “Safer Neighborhoods and the public safety commitment, and how he was going to be handling the Children’s Commission and the Journey in the budget.”
“High level, it looks very much in line with what we’ve seen for a couple of years, as well as the promises [Mayor Curry] made during the campaign,” Brosche said.
One highlight of the budget: a $105M capital improvement program, much of it fueled by borrowing at low interest rates.
When we talked to Curry, he didn’t seem worried about a turn in credit markets impacting the city’s borrowing.
Brosche, for her part, values a “balanced approach” between the “money that we have now, and the money we’re going to have to pay for in the future.”
“I’ve been very attentive to our debt affordability studies that come out each year, and one came out earlier this year in terms of our capacity. I’ll be taking a look at that again in relation to the details of what we see in the budget,” Brosche noted.
Regarding the proposed increase in emergency reserve levels to 8 percent in the coming years, Brosche lauded that as “smart.”
“We’ve seen the need,” Brosche said, for increased emergency reserve levels “through last year’s experiences, and we want to make sure we’re prepared.”
Another impact down the road — the inevitable decrease in ad valorem collections once the housing market resets — may not be easily defrayed by even an 8 percent emergency reserve level, Brosche said.
“When millage goes down, it takes forever to get back to the pre-recession level,” Brosche noted.
“It’s a good move in terms of being prepared and conservative, but I can’t say specifically that it’s going to save us from any particular economic decline or catastrophe — it was at catastrophe levels” after the 2008 crash, Brosche said.
“If we had another one of those [recessions], we’re still going to feel it.”