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Jax transition budget meetings: Planning and Development

Next on Wednesday’s slate of Jacksonville budget reviews by the Lenny Curry transition team: Planning and Development. Sam Mousa, the new Chief Administrative Officer, leads the meeting as ever.

1:30 p.m.: The obligatory review of the high-level revenue and expenses numbers. Fees are up in almost all categories except platting fees. The need for platting has leveled. Expenses are going up too, especially legal, as meetings are going longer, with neighborhood controversies and such. General liability claims are going up also, which is consistent with other departments.

1:38 p.m.: Not much movement in the operating budget. Very few vacancies. One funded chief position, one building inspection secretary; two grant-funded openings in housing.

1:39 p.m.: Mousa wonders why there’s not a transportation planning position. It is unfunded. The Finance Committee is responsible for that. There is one General Fund transportation planner, apparently.

1:46 p.m.: The Ordinance Code demands a chief. There is discussion of the merits of a real position, especially relative to chasing federal and state grant money. The impact of not chasing this money is unknown. The money has been going to other counties. Communication has been an issue.

1:47 p.m.: Mousa: “It’s stupid to have a division without a chief. To not have a Transportation Planning Division.”

1:49 p.m.: “This was when Bill Bishop decided to act like mayor and reorganize government,” continues Mousa, who wants a five-person division.

1:50 p.m.: Shari Shuman wants it quantified how much money has been lost because of inaction.

1:52 p.m.: Discussion of concurrency issues.

1:54 p.m.: 185 employees right now. 3 in the Housing Division paid out of the General Fund; the rest, paid out of federal grants.

1:57 p.m.: Extended discussion of the General Fund and applying it to a transportation budget. Lots of crosstalk. Some confusion.

1:59 p.m.: Revenues to go up $200,000.

2:00 p.m.: On to enhancements.

2:08 p.m.: Discussion of the Banking Fund issue. Mousa seems to believe that Boyer is getting ahead of the script by moving to get rid of the Banking Fund. Apparently, that is being discussed in another committee Wednesday.

2:10 p.m.: Discussion of a new special revenue fund independent of the General Fund for zoning and development to ensure stable funding. Zoning impeded by being understaffed; a two-person staff.

2:14 p.m.: This department needs IT help; does not have the resources. They have two “half-persons” now, need two dedicated people.

2:15 p.m.: Salaries and benefits are down, just a little bit. Overtime is up. Pension contributions up $100,000. Workers comp up considerably. Internal services down considerably. The Banking Fund has been removed due to repayment. Equipment budgeted for in 2015 has been removed.

2:20 p.m.: More discussion of Zoning being shorthanded. Mousa recommends talking to the industry stakeholders to get buy-in for raising fees and gauge their requests. Last time, an advisory committee was a request; eventually, the industry people stopped participating.

2:23 p.m.: There is a need to convert historic microfiche to PDF. Amazing.

2:30 p.m.: An extended discussion of the Northwest Development Trust Fund, which seems to have an utterly ad hoc administration because there is no administration money. That explains quite a bit.

2:32 p.m.: Mousa wants a meeting scheduled on the matter.

2:34 p.m.: More discussion, now of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission. The “pieces were separated,” says Mousa, when “Mayor Brown came in.”

That’s a wrap.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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