Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Now It's Council's Turn with the Budget; Peyton's Proposal Will Face Different Priorities

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Now It's Council's Turn with the Budget; Peyton's Proposal Will Face Different Priorities

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Galnor, Times-Union staff writer

Few of the Jacksonville City Council's budget priorities are reflected in the budget proposal Mayor John Peyton presented to the council last week.

The council has two months to pick through the details and, if it chooses, plug some of its projects in. The council's wish list is topped by a commitment to Intelligent Transportation Systems, improving litter control and creating an inventory of the number of dirt roads in Jacksonville.

Council leaders also expect plenty of discussion on Peyton's plan to change city investment strategy to generate higher returns and the use of reserve funds.

The new budget begins Oct. 1.

"Right now, [Peyton] is trying to address a shortfall more than priorities," said Councilman Warren Alvarez, who heads the council finance committee that will take the lead on the budget.

Some of those issues are addressed in Peyton's business plan, a 173-page document that defines city service goals for the upcoming year. The council, however, may want greater emphasis on some items -- especially Intelligent Transportation Systems, a computer-and camera-driven system used to quicken traffic flow in cities including Charlotte and Dallas.

Peyton's business plan includes taking some beginning steps toward ITS, but does not have a dollar amount attached. The council will be looking for ways to speed up the process, said Councilman Lake Ray, who heads the council's transportation committee.

The problem will be finding the money. Peyton's $787 million budget already addresses a $40 million gap, leaving little to play with.

The gap comes from less-than-expected state-shared revenue, an estimated 15 percent increase in health insurance costs and the fact that the city owes $35 million in contributions to maintain employee pension funds.

"We ain't got enough to go around, so where do we put our money?" council President Lad Daniels asked.

City code requires the mayor and council to exchange a list of 10 budget priorities and combine the list by March. …

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