Watchdog group ‘Truth in Accounting’ questions Jacksonville stadium renovation plan
Image via Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jags Stadium Future
Is the city ignoring current bills while running up new ones?

A national group dedicated to honest accounting and citizen education is not sold on Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan’s plan for the Jaguars‘ stadium.

Sheila A. Weinberg, the founder of Truth in Accounting, says the city is neglecting fiscal realities in favor of speculative and elective spending.

“Is it wise to not pay the minimum on your credit cards so you can use the money to pay for a summer house that you may or may not make money on?” she asked.

The reference is to a proposal that would see Jacksonville on the hook for $775 million in stadium renovations and $150 million in community benefits, with a $775 million total match ($625 million on the stadium) by the team, though with conditions. The Jaguars, owned by a man worth more than $12 billion, would have 30 years to dole out their $150 million share of the community benefits piece.

The city proposes to finance the money by delaying the implementation of a half-penny sales tax intended to defray roughly $5 billion in unfunded pension obligations linked to a plan closed to new entrants nearly a decade ago, letting the pension ride until 2030 and moving capital projects back to that regressive scheme under the aegis of the Better Jacksonville Plan.

The city says critics are ill-informed and that the plan is a good one.

“Anyone who says this funding proposal would doom the pension fund is either intentionally misleading the public or misunderstands how the pension fund actually works. Leaving the Better Jacksonville Plan on its originally intended timetable will save taxpayers $1.5 billion in debt service and fully fund the pensions,” read a statement from the Mayor’s Office late Tuesday evening.

While Council members have offered some minor criticisms of the deal amid forced gridiron metaphors, such as a promise to play “left tackle” and ensure that the taxpayers, as “quarterback,” aren’t “blindsided,” Truth in Accounting has pointed to Jacksonville’s fiscal scoreboard before and found reasons for concern.

According to Truth in Accounting, “over the last year, Jacksonville’s financial condition worsened by $984.6 million, resulting in a Taxpayer Burden of $11,200, earning it a ‘D’ grade.”

In fact, only 10 cities of the 75 indexed are worse off.

One major issue, notes the analysis, is the city’s massive pension problem.

“Jacksonville had set aside only 47 cents for every dollar of promised pension benefits and only 11 cents for every dollar of promised retiree health care benefits.”

The city “had $4.5 billion available to pay $8.1 billion worth of bills,” creating a “$3.5 billion shortfall, an increase of $984.6 million from the prior year, and a burden of $11,200 per taxpayer.”

Ironically, much of Jacksonville’s energy during the just concluded 2024 Legislative Session went to blocking a proposal that could have required the city to reauthorize its discretionary sales surtax once a decade. That means city leaders may have been compelled to push for a referendum as soon as 2026 or else lose a revenue source bond markets and creditors have leaned on for assurances of the city’s ability to pay debt back.

While the city has bashed “biased” analyses from Truth in Accounting before, the group’s caveats are worth noting in light of the current agreement … and the reality of the books.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • the Truth

    May 17, 2024 at 10:48 am

    Khan the Con, owns Deegan, like he did Curry, the city will go bankrupt. Deegan is a one term Mayor, the stadium deal will make sure of that

    • MH/Duuuval

      May 17, 2024 at 1:30 pm

      It’s precisely because DD is trying to avoid a single term that she is playing along with the manly men’s team. Not that she isn’t a bit of a jock herself, right?

      New jail, yes.

      Jags, no, unless they want to come up with an entirely new stadium and reduce our share of costs. (A person can dream.)

    • Nope

      May 18, 2024 at 6:47 pm

      Don’t be too sure. Too many people still drinking the koolaid and defending like nothing is this administration’s choice or fault. More than a year in and somehow it’s like it’s day 0 for people. Things are so bad at the state level that anything with a D in front gets a golden ticket to candyland. So we end up with the worst of both worlds. It sure all looks the same to me. Any future mayors will continue to get worse because who would want the job after what the last decade has wrought. More pretend party politics, more cronyism and corruption. They should just crown the con and revert all landholdings to iguana private holdings. It would save time.

  • Margaret

    May 17, 2024 at 5:08 pm

    This is not all Donna Deegan. This is also the City Council, the Chamber of Commerce, and the very rich people who can afford to attend games and pay for fancy boxes to watch.
    Jacksonville is hampered by the fact that the education system has gone off the rails, with inadequate Charter Schools and alternative schools picking up taxpayers money while leaving the rest of children who can’t afford private education to languish in a Public System which does not pay its teachers enough to attract the best candidates. In short, the majority of taxpayers have no authority over their government because they don’t know how important it is to vote, nor how to determine how to choose a worthy candidate (if, in fact, there are any). Poor education=poor voter awareness. You get what you pay for.
    Apparently, M. Khan is smart enough to have figured out how to game the System.

  • Nope

    May 18, 2024 at 6:28 pm

    The ruling class in Jax wants a city full of uneducated, uninformed, uninvolved non-voters, a mostly renter/transient town who if they can buy a house won’t buy in Duval. But funny how they refused to put it to referendum and maintained a vice grip and complete secrecy on the process (even now) acting like thugs because they know people are on to them. They will tax to death whoever is left and forget about keeping up the city or paying bills, just spend and plunder and kick the can for the next guy. Whoever the next mayor is will inherit a colostomy bag and would have to be corrupt or mentally deficient or both to want the job. Really tired of people defending Deegan. I would shake my head and hold her less accountable had it not been for all the flowery language and empty promises and her acting like an entitled prom queen instead of mayor. She’s made it perfectly clear what her priorities are and where her loyalties lie. Standing up to corruption and public theft or perpetuating it. It really is that simple. She could have been different and special, but no. All anyone has to do is call the Jags bluff because nobody else wants them and it would cost them a fortune to move. The rent alone Jax is accepting as this “deal” won’t cover the light bill. Hypocrisy bought and paid for. I held my nose and voted for them but bitterly regret it. Yeah angry howdy doodie would have been the same. I know. Look at them now, it’s all kumbaya. City council has and always will be corrupt and stupid. I’m a broken record. Jacksonville is doomed. The next 10 years are going to be rough. I’m royally pissed.

  • MH/Duuuval

    May 19, 2024 at 7:52 am

    “I’m a broken record. Jacksonville is doomed. The next 10 years are going to be rough. I’m royally pissed.”

    So are we all.

  • Jacksonville, Detroit of the South

    May 20, 2024 at 11:59 am

    Will be leaving as soon as possible based on the city’s lack of leadership and what has happened to the schools.. Things are getting bad for Jacksonville and we don’t want to get caught in a downward spiral. They can have their big stadium while the city falls apart. We won’t stick around to see it. I don’t think the mayor is a serious or honest person and we would be stuck with her for another 7 years. That’s too long.

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