Jacksonville struggles with COVID-19 cost overruns
Jacksonville City Hall.

City_Hall_St_James_Building
As revenue dried up, payroll costs ballooned.

Jacksonville city officials briefed City Council members on just a few of the grim financial realities related to the current pandemic and the evolving response.

CFO Joey Greive discussed “comp time” for employees during the pandemic, an issue that has proven to drive costs for the city in the current budget year.

The latest estimates shows $50 million in unanticipated, un-budgeted comp time, a “direct result of COVID-19 economic impacts” as of May 8.

“Those numbers grew very quickly,” Greive said of comp time and other costs during the COVID-19 response period.

A hurricane is a multi-day event. Not so with the pandemic.

“By the third payroll, you’re realizing this is growing into quite a number, Grieve said.

The money will be paid out over the next few years, Greive added.

While a pending agreement with first responders should prevent costs from going up much more, the number is roughly 4% of the city’s general fund budget, $1.27 billion at last check.

Exact figures on other fiscal effects of COVID-19 on city coffers are still pending.

Property Appraiser Jerry Holland, whose department’s budget was up for review by the committee Tuesday, said the pandemic would not affect this year’s ad valorem taxes, but 2021 reductions were in play if the economy does not bounce back.

“You’ll still see an increase in ad valorem taxes for the upcoming budget year,” Holland vowed.

Council Auditor Kyle Billy noted the city’s own quarterly summary has been “delayed” because of the migration to OneCloud, with guidance not coming until June as a result.

The city, at last check, has $187 million in reserves. Interesting choices are ahead, given a tax-hike averse Mayor who has said he envisions capital spending as a jobs program.

“The last thing I’m considering is putting additional burden on the people of Jacksonville,” Curry said earlier this month. “I am looking at ways to provide relief to people instead of additional burdens.”

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. 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 [email protected]



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