Revenue $254 Million Short; FALLING SHORT Projections Were Based on Conservative Estimates, Former Mayor Says. PLAN B Extend the 6-Cent Gas Tax until 2039 and Take Longer to Finish Road Projects

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City planners decreased Better Jacksonville Plan revenue expectations by more than $250 million for the next five years amid jitters that the economy had gotten too bad to finish the plan's transportation projects on time.

A Times-Union analysis of city figures shows Better Jacksonville tax revenue has fallen $66.5 million short of projections during its eight-year life span. Only two years, 2005 and 2006, saw collections surpass expectations, although other years came close.

Nervous about everything from the crippled housing market to retail indicators, the city decided to lower expectations from now through 2013 by $253.8 million.

Former Mayor John Delaney, whose legacy rests heavily on the $2.25 billion growth management project, said Tuesday he was surprised the projections could be so far off.

The numbers were crunched eight years ago during Delaney's administration and were based on what he called "hyper-conservative" thinking.

"We didn't just pull those numbers out of thin air," he said.

The math was done under the watchful eye of bond houses that would trust the city with clusters of multi-million-dollar financing, Delaney said.

Mayor John Peyton, flanked Tuesday by Chief Administrator Alan Mosley and Treasurer Michael Givens, defended the new projections and stressed the need for a legislative revamp in order to finish Better Jacksonville's road projects.

It involves extending the city's 6-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax until 2039 and reworking taxes that fund bus operations for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority. Bills are expected to be firmed up for City Council review early next year.

On Monday, Peyton said Better Jacksonville road projects, scheduled to conclude within the next several years, likely would take until 2019. …


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