Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and City Councilman Garrett Dennis agree that more money is needed for Duval County’s after-school programs.
However, they are on what Dennis called “different pages” regarding how much is needed. A need for resolution looms and will be provided at Council Tuesday night.
And that resolution looks likely to come out of one-time, non-recurring money. This means that Council could be dealing with this mess again in 2018.
In response to an appropriations bill filed last week for $1.071 million additional afterschool program money from the Curry administration, Dennis — chair of the City Council Finance Committee — said Monday that Curry’s allocation isn’t nearly enough.
“With the Mayor’s support, an additional $1.8 million has been identified to expand accessibility of afterschool services to more youth and their families,” Dennis contended Friday, adding that “there remains a need for approximately $1.7 million to fund an additional twenty (20) sites.”
Curry had no comment on Dennis’ position, ahead of a Monday evening public notice meeting held by the Democratic councilman who seems more willing than anyone else on Council to joust with the Republican mayor.
The proposal would see eight more Boys and Girls Club programs funded, in addition to three Communities in Schools locations, and other programs.
All told, Dennis’ itemized list of additional sites encompasses $3.46M of spending, accommodating 2,260 students. Currently accommodated: 5,805 students at a cost of $7.726M.
“As you all know, public school starts next Monday,” Dennis said, noting an “emergency bill” from the mayor is headed to committees Monday, but “we have an opportunity tonight to add additional seats.”
“If we do nothing, we have 5,805 seats,” Dennis said. “We have an opportunity to have 8,000 seats for students in Duval County, which is unprecedented.”
“These seats are all over Duval County, in nine different City Council districts,” Dennis added.
The Council Auditor’s Office noted that some Jacksonville Journey money could be transferred over, amounting to $850,000. And Jacksonville Children’s Commission money could add up to another $238,000. The Mayor’s proposed $1.01M could also be added to the pot.
$1.3M is the total need, Dennis said. And that money could come out of the $97M general fund balance, which would not push the city below its mandated reserve levels.
Councilman Reggie Gaffney wanted more expansive funding, that could “include everybody” that applied, regardless of scoring matrix results.
Councilwoman Katrina Brown noted that this process is unusual, wanting to know why the Jacksonville Children’s Commission forced Council to “scramble” to fund sites at the last minute.
“We in the Council don’t like to be put in this position,” Brown said.
Councilman Sam Newby noted that some programs were funded at a lower seat threshold than agreed, and he wanted them to be made whole.
“The decision’s going to be made tomorrow whether we do something or nothing,” Dennis said.
Councilman Reggie Brown noted that, as with the summer camp funding issues earlier this year, fewer children were served because the per pupil outlay increased. Brown wanted to ensure that there were no geographic “gaps” in service areas.
Brown took issue with KIPP schools getting 500 students, a number that dwarfs many other schools on here.
Council President Anna Brosche, who supported Mayor Curry’s initial proposal, expressed a concern regarding the non-recurring nature of these funds.
“We’re creating a situation …this funding that we come up with is not in next year’s budget. We’re creating a challenge to solve a problem now that isn’t in the budget that we’re addressing,” Brosche said.
“If you get funded this year,” asked Councilwoman Joyce Morgan, “what would you do next year?”
Councilwoman Lori Boyer talked to us as she left the meeting, concurring that this is one-time money.
“I think that’s the Council President’s point. Even if these funds could be cobbled together from various sources,” Boyer said, “it’s only for this year.”
Boyer also noted that structural reforms in children’s programs — with the Kids Hope Alliance set to replace the Jacksonville Journey and Jacksonville Children’s Commission — create their own challenges related to forecasting beyond this current allocation.
Journey programs: funded at $4,000 per student per year. JCC programs: $1,600 per student per year.
“Who knows what these [numbers] will look like next year,” Boyer asked, rhetorically.
“It sounds like one-time money. But if you really believe these programs save lives, that they get kids off the street,” Boyer said, then the price is worth it.
Dennis continued to press for spending out of the reserves, but the committee was not sold with the source of money. A modified proposal, not including reserve funds, will likely be provided on Tuesday … hours before Council votes on this emergency measure.
If the proposal goes “all the way,” Brosche noted that it would create $4.8M of obligations this year that are not in next year’s budget — when after-school money is added to the summer camp money allocated earlier this year.
This could, said Councilman Reggie Brown, create “false hopes” going forward.