Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Traffic Fine Twist Favors $232 Million Courthouse; Councilman Urges 25 Percent of Mayor's Increase Be Applied to Courthouse Maintenance

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Traffic Fine Twist Favors $232 Million Courthouse; Councilman Urges 25 Percent of Mayor's Increase Be Applied to Courthouse Maintenance

Article excerpt

Byline: MATT GALNOR, The Times-Union

A last-minute amendment to a proposal adding a $15 fee to traffic tickets in Jacksonville may have thrown a wrench into Mayor John Peyton's proposal to boost the Duval County Courthouse budget to $268 million.

Peyton's plan, which is still pending before the City Council, would borrow against future revenues from the $15 fee to put $57 million toward the new courthouse.

Yet on Tuesday night, Councilman Jerry Holland, who is co-sponsoring a competing courthouse bill to keep the budget at $232 million, offered an amendment to the traffic tickets bill to set aside 25 percent of the proceeds for ongoing courthouse maintenance. The council unanimously passed the bill.

While Holland's proposal does keep money for maintenance needs, as his colleagues applauded, it also accomplishes another, less obvious goal. Holland's amendment takes enough money out of the pot from the fees to possibly leave Peyton's proposal short but keeps enough to fund the one sponsored by himself, Councilman Lake Ray and Councilwoman Glorious Johnson.

"It does leave more credibility to one proposal versus the other, but in no way would the mayor's proposal be credible if you don't take care of maintenance," Holland said.

Peyton's staff will look at the estimates about how much the fee would generate but is not concerned about Holland's amendment, top aide Susie Wiles said. Peyton will still make his case for the council to use all of the money for the new courthouse construction, if needed, Wiles said.

Wiles said Peyton may choose to not sign the bill and let it become law but does not plan to veto it.

"The mayor will stick with his plan . . . and not subtract 25 percent off the top for maintenance," Wiles said.

The council has to approve any use of the fee revenue.

Wiles said the mayor is looking to other sources to cover maintenance costs -- including the savings from rent the city won't have to pay for the Public Defender's Office and State Attorney's Office. …

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