Jacksonville Bold for 4.10.24: Bumps in the budget

Negotiations between Jacksonville and its police union are heating up.

The rhetoric of labor negotiations between Jacksonville and the Fraternal Order of the Police is heating up ahead of a scheduled meeting on Friday.

Mayor Donna Deegan said during a recent interview that she didn’t expect to hear the union head’s take.

“I have never heard from Randy (Reaves) myself. So, I was a little surprised to see that in the media,” Deegan said Sunday on WJXT’sThis Week in Jacksonville.”

Reaves told host Kent Justice that locals may need to learn what’s at stake in the wage talks for the underpaid and staff-deficient police officers, correctional workers, and judicial officers whose futures are now under negotiation.

Communication between Randy Reaves and Donna Deegan leaves much to be desired.

“Any competent person is going to look at this data and it is going to sound alarms. I think if the public knew that their first responders and their law enforcement was a short, 180 short in the jail, over 40 short on the police side, and underpaid by 19%, I think that would shock a lot of people and it also would probably bring a lot of attention to how the city invests money in other things while their first responders are being underpaid.”

Deegan was unwilling to offer insight into the city’s position before the April 12 meeting between city negotiators and union representatives.

“I can’t talk about the numbers and what we’re thinking and what will actually come from that. That would be a violation of the negotiating team,” Deegan said, adding that both parties “will come to an agreement and I’m sure that will happen before too long.”

Though the Mayor says the “negotiating team” would be compromised by disclosure of position, the police union is very clear about what it wants from the city.

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) members would be 34% behind the state average pay by 2027 without raises. To that end, JSO seeks a 17% raise for Fiscal Year 2024-25, with 4% hikes each of the next two years.

FOP seeks a 20% increase in the first year of the contract and a 10% hike in each of the next two years for correctional officers, noting the most recent training class could only get 11 candidates despite having 40 spots to fill.

Regarding judicial officers, the union seeks a 17% raise in the first year of the deal, followed by 5% hikes in the next two years.

Reaves tells us that Deegan’s negotiators admitted that the FOP’s “data on comparable agencies was valid and the retainment and retention numbers were concerning.”

These negotiations come as Jacksonville faces lower-than-expected revenues, which could result in the city collecting roughly $100 million less in taxes than was forecast earlier this fiscal year.

“So there are going to be choices we have to make, obviously, but we’ve asked every department head to look at where they can be more innovative, where they can shore things up and make sure that we’re not spending any more than we have to spend,” Deegan told WJXT in late March. “It’s just that you end up with a whole lot more requests than you can actually fulfill. So, we’re just looking at what we have to prioritize right now.”

The previous budget was essentially handed off from the last mayoral administration, with Deegan’s then-nascent team doing the budgetary equivalent of remixing or post-production work. Deegan’s administration likely will be the bearer of bad news, and whether that comes to the capital improvement budget or employee headcount is an open question.

During her budget speech last summer, Deegan joked that 40 years ago, she “got into broadcasting” because she was “told there would be no math.” But that joke went over better given “generational investments of $1.752 billion from the General Fund in addition to nearly $406 million from the Capital Improvement Plan,” which led to the most significant budget in local history, which included $103 million in reserves.

This time, the lifting will be heavier, given the police push for more money and — in case you forgot — the generational commitment that will be the city’s seemingly inevitable decision to finance hundreds of millions of dollars for the Jaguars’ stadium renovation.

Of course, the City Council will have to approve all this. However, unlike in 2023, competing needs are more evident amid less robust resources than expected.

Of course, it’s possible to go bare-bones in budgeting. Former Mayor Alvin Brown’s team had very unappetizing choices to make as the consequences of the 2008 economic crash cast a pall over their budgets. And long ago, Hans Tanzler was known for not putting much money into capital projects — our reporter heard Jake Godbold make that point many years ago.

But for Deegan, who was swept into office amid aspirational and uniting rhetoric, tough budget choices in year two of her administration present narrative complications.

Whether these will matter in 2027 when she runs for re-election is unknown; there is no obvious Republican opponent yet, and unseating a mayor is a heavy lift. Sure, Tommy Hazouri and Brown lost re-election bids. But the institution of the Mayor’s office offers insulation more often than not.

But ultimately, it’s going to be up to the Mayor and Chief Financial Officer Anna Brosche to forge a vision that fulfills the poetry of the stump speech while acknowledging the increasingly prosaic job of governing a city with more material needs than resources residents are willing to provide.

That shouldn’t come at the risk of emergency reserve funds, and it shouldn’t come borrowed at today’s prohibitive interest rates, lest today’s problems get passed to tomorrow’s citizens as so often happens.

Four more years

Melissa Nelson is making it official and is running for a third term as the chief prosecutor for Northeast Florida’s 4th Judicial Circuit.

Rock Creek Capital’s Ashton Hudson will be her campaign Treasurer.

Melissa Nelson is ready for another term.

Nelson, a lawyer from the Ortega area of Jacksonville, was elected in 2016 to represent the 4th Circuit, which includes Clay, Nassau and Duval counties. She defeated Angela Corey in the Republican Primary that August but hasn’t faced a ballot test since.

It’s unlikely she will face one this time, either. Thus far, she is unopposed for re-election, and those close to her have denied weak rumors that Rep. Jessica Baker was looking at a 2024 run.

Hutson hurrah

Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed legislation introduced by Sen. Travis Hutson that funnels revenues from the state’s Gaming Compact to various environmental projects.

DeSantis said much of the money would go to improvements in the Central and South Florida Water Management Districts.

Travis Hudson notches a major win for environmental projects.

“This involves 9 million Floridians on water while also protecting parts of Florida from flooding,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Davie. “Most of the infrastructure was built in the middle of last century and does now require major repairs and upgrades.”

Under SB 1638, 96% of the revenues from the compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida would go into programs to improve water quality, protect wildlife areas and preserve state parks.

Up to $100 million will be sent to the Florida Wildlife Corridor to conserve lands to keep important habitats connected; $100 million will go to land management programs overseen by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; and $100 million will go to DEP’s Resilient Florida Trust Fund, which provides local grants to protect critical assets from sea level rise and climate change.

Children’s story

Aprils in the future will see an increased governmental focus on ensuring that young children are not left unattended in hot vehicles now that “Ariya’s Law” is part of Florida Statute.

DeSantis has signed off on SB 554, a piece of legislation that makes April “Hot Car Death Prevention Month.” The legislation is intended “to raise awareness of the dangers of leaving children unattended in motor vehicles and how to prevent hot car deaths from occurring.”

April is Hot Car Death Prevention Month.

Legislation from Sen. Jennifer Bradley of Fleming Island intends to “encourage” the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Health, local governments and other agencies “to sponsor events that promote public awareness and education on the dangers of leaving children unattended in motor vehicles and how to prevent hot car deaths.”

The bill stresses “motor vehicle safety for children,” including informing people of “criminal penalties associated with leaving a child unattended or unsupervised in a motor vehicle” and ways a “bystander” can “rescue a child who is unattended in a motor vehicle and vulnerable or in imminent danger of suffering harm.”

The bill is named after 10-month-old Ariya Paige, a Baker County baby who was left in a vehicle by a babysitter and died from the July heat.

“Since 1998, Florida has had the second largest number of child heatstroke deaths in vehicles (110), second only to Texas (143),” a bill analysis notes. Of that number, seven of those deaths, including Ariya’s, happened last year.

Bradley, who represents Baker County, said in a Committee hearing that the bill was close to her heart and that she couldn’t “imagine what that family has endured.”

Pastor vs. pastor

Jacksonville’s most iconoclastic Democrat will face opposition on the August ballot this year from a man who claims a divine communication called him to challenge her.

Lloyd Caulker opened a campaign account Friday to oppose Rep. Kimberly Daniels in House District 14, a seat that includes portions of Northern and Western Duval County.

Lloyd Caulker found his calling, running for the Florida House. Image via Lloyd Caulker Facebook.

“Leadership runs in my blood,” said Caulker, a native of Sierra Leone and a descendant of tribal royalty who announced his election with a Facebook post that showed him doing a “running for election” dance and saying he was confident he would win.

Issues of importance to Caulker are ethanol and education, he told Florida Politics on Monday.

Daniels is in the middle of her third term in the House. She was initially elected to serve HD 14 in 2016, was re-elected in 2018, and lost in the 2020 Democratic Primary to current Rep. Angie Nixon. After Nixon moved to HD 13 during 2022’s redistricting, Daniels won a four-way Primary to return to Tallahassee.

A former pastor and consultant, he owns the “Salvation Navy,” which LinkedIn describes as a “Strategist against the Commandery of Knights Templer, Consistory of Sublime Princes of the Royal Secret Etc. …”

This energy exchange was mutually beneficial, Caulker said.

Asked about going up against Daniels, who herself is a pastor of global notoriety, Caulker said his campaign was a “divine calling” and that the “Lord Jesus Christ” urged him to run after he left the ministry to travel around and “wash feet” like Mary Magdalene.

“I would wash the feet and also take the water and, well, rub it on my hair,” Caulker related, noting that he washed roughly 300 people’s feet and that it led to healing for them.

Read more here.

Greco greenbacks

One month since entering the race, Sam Greco announced his campaign raised more than $155,000 in his bid for Florida House District 19, the seat now held by term-limited House Speaker Paul Renner.

HD 19 includes Flagler and part of St. Johns.

Sam Greco shows his fundraising prowess.

Greco raised over $113,000 for the campaign and over $42,000 for his political committee, First Coast Conservative Coalition.

“I am overwhelmed with the outpouring of support I have received,” said Greco, a Navy Reserves officer. I’m confident we will have the necessary resources to win this race and deliver for the people of Flagler and St. Johns counties.”

Biz boom?

The leading economic indicators in North Florida show the Jacksonville area business scene is expanding with a “positive trend” of business expansion in March, according to the latest Jacksonville Economic Monitoring Survey conducted by the University of North Florida.

Albert Loh, associate dean of the Coggin College of Business at UNF, oversaw the survey and concluded that indicators show “a slight expansion in the region’s manufacturing sector.” The study for the Jacksonville area tabulates several factors to establish the scale of business trends, such as business output, employment, orders, inventory, purchases, and prices, among other elements.

Consumer sentiment improved in December in Florida
UNF researchers say the survey shows Sunshine State consumers are warming to the economy. Stock image via Adobe.

The most significant uptick in the Jacksonville-area economy in March was business output, which jumped from the assigned February rating of 49 to 59.

“An index above 50 suggests that more companies reported an increase in production (and) output compared to those reporting a decrease. This signifies growing economic activity, likely leading to increased employment and a generally positive business outlook,” the UNF report stated.

The next biggest month-to-month economic indicator jump for the First Coast area came in output prices, which are what businesses charge for the costs of providing goods and services.

That figure came in at 56 in March, up six points from the February figure of 50.

According to the business college survey, “This indicates that a majority of companies surveyed reported higher prices for their goods and services than in the previous month. The expansion in output prices may generate revenue growth for manufacturers but put upward pressure on prices, which could impact consumer purchasing power.”

Out of the dozen local economic indicators, only two went down in scale in March and they were in areas some businesses welcome. Both of those sectors were in backlogs of work and inventory. Both those areas showed nominal signs of contraction instead of expansion. — Drew Dixon.

Help wanted

If you’re looking for a job with wings, the Jacksonville Aviation Authority may have a first-class opportunity for you on Saturday.

Boeing, FlightStar, Hermeus, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO), LSI Inc., Tactical Air Support and the U.S. Coast Guard will be on hand for a job fair at Cecil Field.

Cecil Field is hanging up the ‘help wanted’ sign.

“Attendees are encouraged to bring updated copies of their resumes as these businesses are hiring for a wide range of positions including (but not limited to) aircraft mechanics, avionics technicians, ground support equipment technicians, maintenance leadership, materials coordinators, police dispatchers, police officers, security guards, stockroom clerks, structures mechanics and tool room technicians,” JAA notes.

The event starts at 9 a.m. at Million Air, Hangar 925, 13363 Simpson Way. The nearest bus stop is at Lake Newman Street & Authority Avenue.

But that’s not the help available for those seeking jobs this week.

CareerSource NEFL is hosting a “special workshop for job seekers facing barriers to employment from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, April 11, at the Gateway Career Center, at 5000 Norwood Avenue, Suite 2 in Jacksonville.”

Attendees will learn about work readiness, resume creation, and awareness of driver’s licenses.

“Every year, more than 30,000 people are released from Florida prisons and face challenges when they attempt to reenter the workforce, among 650,000 Americans in similar situations nationwide,” said CareerSource NEFL Access Point Manager Dwaine Sweet. “Second chance workshops and job fairs help these men and women overcome barriers to employment, such as incarceration, by opening the door to gainful employment in Northeast Florida.”

Study money

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) announced that it will receive $1.5 million from the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Fiscal Year 2023 Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Planning.

“This grant follows up on our recent award of $6 million in community project funding and proves the JTA’s strength in competing for federal grants,” said JTA CEO Nat Ford. “Transit-oriented development is our strategy to build more connected, live, work, and play communities for the citizens of Jacksonville. The best way to make this goal a reality is to take the initiative and make it easier for developers by providing them with a comprehensive plan.”

Nathaniel Ford Sr. is celebrating federal grant money for JTA.

Per a media release from JTA, the “study will explore sustainable urban development in Northwest Jacksonville along JTA’s Bus Rapid Transit service, the First Coast Flier Green Line corridor. With robust community input, it will focus on enhancing economic development opportunities and increasing transit ridership through TOD.”

Last week, the feds announced that roughly $17.6 million in this tranche of money would go to 20 projects in 16 states. The money is “to support community efforts to improve access to public transportation” and “help organizations plan for transportation projects that connect communities and improve access to transit and affordable housing.”

Everything is awesome

On April 4, the Nassau County Economic Development Board held its Economic Luncheon to tout the county and its accomplishments.

The event was held at Florida State College at Jacksonville. Lunch sponsors were Nelson & Associates Insurance and construction firm Dana B. Kenyon Company.

Nassau County leaders gather to lavish praise on the county and its accomplishments.

Speakers included Peter Anderson, VP of New Investments with Pattillo Industrial Real Estate, who gave an update on the Wildlight Commerce Park. Robert Companion, Nassau County’s Deputy Manager & County Engineer, talked about all things Nassau County and the various projects in the works. Dr. Anna Lebesch, SVP of Strategy and Talent Development with JAXUSA Partnership, presented how vital talent development is for a growing county to attract businesses.

NCEDB is celebrating 30 years this year; in honor of that, the group recognized John A. Crawford, Nassau County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller, as one of the founding Board members and a former Chair.

Happy retirement

Christina Parrish Stone, executive director of the St. Johns Cultural Council, which promotes arts, culture, and heritage in St. Johns County, will retire on Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

Parrish Stone said: “I have been honored to support the efforts of St. Johns County and the cities of St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach and to work with the outstanding staff and leaders of these communities, and all of the talented individual artists and dedicated arts, culture, heritage, and tourism organizations on Florida’s Historic Coast. There is no better place to live, work, and enjoy the arts. I look forward to more time to experience all that our beautiful cities and county have to offer during my retirement.”

Enjoy retirement, Christina Parrish Stone.

According to a statement, Parrish Stone is leaving after a “dynamic and highly successful” five years of leadership. The Cultural Council’s Board of Directors has begun the comprehensive process to select a new executive director. Parrish Stone will provide consulting services after retirement to ensure a smooth transition.

Highlights of her tenure include the negotiation of a new five-year contract to provide destination marketing services for St. Johns County; an agreement with the City of St. Augustine to lease and activate The Waterworks as a venue for arts, culture and heritage programming; work with the City of St. Augustine Beach to secure National Register status for the St. Augustine Beach Hotel, encouraging significant grant funding for renovation of the building; expanding and improving the County’s Art in Public Spaces program with support from the National Endowment for the Arts; and dramatically increasing funding for individual artists and arts organizations through new and expanded grant programs.

Jaguars’ new defense

Between the end of the first wave of free agency and the opening of mini-camps, teams with new coaches and coordinators are surrounded by mystery. Such is the case with the Jaguars and new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen.

As the weeks drip by, hints about the Jaguars’ defensive scheme will trickle out.

The latest hints came from free agent addition Arik Armstead, who talked about leaving San Francisco and signing with Jacksonville.

Arik Armstead drops hints of how the Jaguars’ defense will work.

First, Armstead revealed that before the 49ers released him, the Houston Texans tried to trade for him. The deal did not go through. Once Armstead became a free agent, several teams were interested in signing him.

“Buffalo was in the mix,” Armstead said on his “Third and Long” podcast. “The Jags were in the mix. There were a few other teams.

“It really boiled down to having some conversations, seeing where I best fit, seeing how teams wanted to use me scheme-wise.”

The conversations between Armstead and the Jaguars proved the right fit. One of the Jaguars’ goals this offseason is to bring in players who know how to perform under pressure and in big games. That spoke to Armstead.

“A lot of conversations about me coming in and helping teams get over the hump,” Armstead said. “I consider myself a big game player, a big-time player in big games.”

Armstead said he had already spoken with Josh Allen and Travon Walker and that Devin Lloyd also reached out. Armstead could get his first in-person exposure to his new teammates as soon as April 15, when the offseason conditioning program can begin. He also wants to make an impact off the field.

“I’m really excited to get down to Jacksonville and start the process of not only integrating myself with the team and my teammates in the field, but also in the community, and learning about Jacksonville, learning how I can help in Jacksonville, learning about where the needs are, and how I can be a blessing.”

Regarding how Armstead will be used, he will play a multifaceted role on the Jaguars’ new 4-3 defensive front. With Allen and Walker figured to play on the outside, Armstead can add pass rush from the defensive tackle position. With the free agent addition of Trevis Gipson and the expected maturation of Yassir Abdullah, the Jaguars have edge rushers to create depth, so Armstead may not see much time on the outside, barring injuries to the position group.

“That journey of becoming that D line starts in OTAs (organized team activities, the offseason practices) and everybody coming together,” Armstead said. “I’m excited about that new opportunity and my role in it. And, you know, trying to take this team to new heights, man, it’s going to be a lot of fun, it’s going to be a lot of hard work, it’s going to be challenging, but I’m excited for it.

Staff Reports


  • One term mayor

    April 10, 2024 at 4:16 pm

    Mayor: “So there are going to be choices we have to make, obviously, but we’ve asked every department head to look at where they can be more innovative, where they can shore things up and make sure that we’re not spending any more than we have to spend,” Deegan told WJXT in late March. “It’s just that you end up with a whole lot more requests than you can actually fulfill. So, we’re just looking at what we have to prioritize right now.” TRANSLATION: Hey guys, we’re reducing your pencil and budget. Everybody has to deal with 1 less pencil a month. Try and economize. Everything I promised was a lie, I don’t care about this city, I live in Atlantic beach and do not interact with poor people. I think we should raise taxes while neglecting every basic need in the city and spend on the things my buddies want, and I will prioritize billionaire welfare for private profit over anything that actually benefits the city or fulfils what I promised. I will make sure my buddies get paid and hang the city with an enormous inflated budget, generational debt, unaddressed issues, and a behemoth stadium taxpayers are on the hook for which profits only billionaires and a team which does not even promise to stay in Jax. It’s not my fault I don’t understand about money and can’t do math. I hire other crooks to handle that for me. (We wish the mayor to ride off into the sunset with the other Con on the kismet and none of those carpetbagger crooks come back).

  • Stadium Deal Robs the City

    April 10, 2024 at 4:45 pm

    What is clear at this point is funding the stadium with no transparency, no public referendum, no accountability to taxpayers, not even a true estimate of what it will cost is stealing from the city. The numbers floated around 750M entry point to 1.2-1.4B with block grants as starting estimates are not the true cost which could include compound interest, possible negative amortization, downgrading municipal bond ratings which also increases insurance costs and cost of living for citizens, and negatively affects budgets. There is no way this happens without higher taxes as a starting point. Pension costs alone are approaching half the city’s budget in short order and unfunded liabilities stretch out for the next 2 generations. The city deserves a True Accounting, all-in costs over the 25-50 years of borrowing, plus unplanned budget “overruns” as Jax is master at, for a stadium that will be obsolete in 20 years well before it is paid off. The Jags can’t even commit past 2026. The stadium is a generational public expense but the profits go to one man and one private franchise, not to the city. It operates at a loss to the city because there is no meaningful home-bound or long distance tourism. Anyone who is so vocal about paying for it I will ask when is the last time you bought a ticket and spent $1k downtown? Right. How many of you are there. Right. They have to make the seating area smaller to hide the fact they can’t sell tickets. But even if they were beating people away, those profits go to the owner and the franchise, not the city. Only the costs go to the city. There is no other model in private enterprise or public governance where taxpayers fund a private enterprise for private profits and derive only an intangible “feeling” as a “benefit” at significant economic loss and ongoing increasing cost. What is very clear is the administration does not have its priorities straight or taxpayer interests at heart. It boggles the mind as to what kind of real accounting is happening at all.

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