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Mike Weinstein and Sam Mousa prepare for a city budget review


Hard choices loom for Lenny Curry’s staff in Jax capital budget

Just months ago, Jacksonville passed its pension reform package, which will give the city approximately $150M of budget relief from costs of its unfunded pension liability in terms of next year’s budget.

While raises for city workers, to be phased in over the next three fiscal years, will consume a lot of that relief, rest assured that everyone in City Hall has a wishlist.

More employees. New equipment. Other incidentals.

That has been one challenge during the budget process for the city’s Chief Administrative Officer (Sam Mousa) and Chief Financial Officer (Mike Weinstein).

A new challenge manifested on Monday, meanwhile, with the selection of the new City Council Finance Committee — a departure from virtually every year, one in which Jacksonville Democrats from the perpetually neglected Districts 7 through 10 will have the numbers to carry every vote.

Of course, Finance can vote to appropriate whatever; the Mayor’s Office executes contracts, and that will serve as a check against any potential profligacy. Arguably a necessary check, given pressures like $26M of city spending in the wake of Hurricane Matthew that has yet to receive FEMA reimbursement.

In this context, Tuesday’s run through of the 5 year Capital Improvement Program was conducted (see last year’s here).

Mayor Lenny Curry will be challenged by Council this term to deliver on his “One City, One Jacksonville” vision, and that challenge will include calls to make real progress on delayed capital projects in North, West, and Northwest Jacksonville.

Mousa, to be sure, knows the score. Last year, he noted that the city could use a $400M capital budget. However, that’s not happening. Not even close. And, as ever, hard choices are inevitable … even though the total CIP this year will be close to $100M, not including money for sports and entertainment facilities.

For context, last year’s CIP had capital projects at $78M last year — most of that pay-go, Mousa said.

Mousa did note as the meeting began that there may be the opportunity to add “a few more capital improvement projects with one-time funding” at the request of the Mayor or a City Councilor, given budget relief.  And some timetables on projects were to be moved up a year. However, he cautioned, Tuesday’s discussion was preliminary.

Meanwhile, Curry is developing his own CIP list, independent of Tuesday’s process, and that will perhaps amend the final product.

With all those caveats, the highlights.

Pay-go money: $23.2M, comprise part of an almost $100M CIP.

Movement on a recurrent issue: $3.6M for courthouse remediation and demolition; $4.4M for the same for old city hall, which includes asbestos remediation, with the properties will be returned to greenscape. Mousa speculates that implosion will be the end game for these structures.

The last $8M for Liberty/Coastline rebuild, completing a $31M obligation, is also in the CIP.

Roadway resurfacing is in the CIP at $12M, and ADA curb compliance: another $14M.

ADA compliance for public buildings: a $2.6M hit.

Countywide intersection improvements and bridges: $3M, with another million for rehab.

The St. Johns River Bulkhead assessment and restoration: also in the budget this year for $1M, along with $500K for countywide projects for tributaries with bulkheads.

The River Road bulkhead needs repair to the most degraded segments, with a cost of $1.9M total for these — and $600K this year, which comes at the expense of the Mayport Community Center in FY 18.

$3M for Chaffee Road. $750,000 for Five Points improvements in Riverside, which moves up to this year. Willow Branch Creek bulkhead replacement: $1.5M. $720,000 for Soutel Road’s “road diet,” which will go to design of a “highly needed project for the Northwest,” per Mousa.

Fishweir Creek gets $1.6M for ecological rehab.

Mary Singleton Senior Center: $500,000 for maintenance and upgrades. $944K for the Arlington Senior Center. $600,000 for Southside Senior Center, and $1.5M for Mandarin Senior Center expansion, a facility “bursting at the seams,” per Mousa.

As well, Mayport Community Center — a Bill Gulliford request — was budgeted for $800,000 for design, but ends up with $200,000 in FY 18 given other needs and logistical issues.

McCoy’s Creek pipe removal is in the budget, for $750,000 — the idea is to improve river access, a priority of Council President Lori Boyer. And $600,000 for the McCoy’s Creek Greenway.

A backlog of sidewalk projects — a risk management concern — is also on the list. Library projects, by and large, are on schedule, largely funded by library fines.

4th Street Brick Rebuild is also on the list for this year; a “desperately needed job,” per Mousa.

Downtown landscape enhancements: $1 million, per Mayor Curry’s request, though he wants to survey the area before a more specific request is made.

Friendship Fountain repairs: in the budget. As is the School Board building kayak launch, and $1M for Southbank Riverwalk renovations.

Moving on to stormwater projects, the Trout River/Moncrief Project will move forward, though with a reduced scope. And the LaSalle Street Lift Station is moving forward, despite the Governor’s untimely veto of the state appropriation carried by Rep. Jason Fischer in Tallahassee.

Solid waste: $4.5M will complete the current Trail Ridge landfill expansion project, setting up the city for future expansion, with property acquisition part of a previous year’s spend. This will buy the city 3-5 years of dumping time.

Written By

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

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