Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Report: City Must Change to Halt Crisis; JCCI Study Points out Problems It Says Will Add to Current Budget Woes

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Report: City Must Change to Halt Crisis; JCCI Study Points out Problems It Says Will Add to Current Budget Woes

Article excerpt

Byline: TIA MITCHELL

Jacksonville is facing a "financial crisis" that will only be solved by making tough decisions with long-term implications, according to a Jacksonville Community Council Inc. study released today.

The yearlong review -"Our Money, Our City: Financing Jacksonville's Future" - resulted in recommendations that fall under two headings: solving the financial crisis and building public trust. For the next two years, JCCI will focus on implementing the recommendations by encouraging community-wide discussions.

The report is the third time JCCI has weighed in on the city's financial health, most recently in 1992, according to J.F. Bryan IV, the study chairman. This time, he said, the problems are worse and long-term solutions are urgently needed.

"Our study concluded 'business as usual' is not sustainable and absolutely cannot continue," Bryan said. "Doing nothing is not one of the options here."

The study chastised present and former city leaders for running the city "on the cheap" - focusing on keeping taxes low and not paying enough attention to whether services are being adequately funded.

Today's budget woes were created by "short-sighted financial decisions for political expediency built over multiple administrations," Bryan said.

Jacksonville is facing a projected deficit of up to $90 million due largely to decreasing property tax revenue and rising pension costs.

Mayor John Peyton and some City Council members were briefed on the report Tuesday. Peyton also gave Bryan a letter commending the study and its findings.

Many citizens approve of recent budget reductions, the city's low per-capita expenditures and relatively modest taxes and fees, compared to other Florida cities, Peyton wrote. However, the mayor added, the question of whether the city is "under-investing" in the community and "shortchanging the quality of life" for its citizens merits discussion.

"It is my hope and expectation that this report will stimulate a community conversation on this important subject, and I look forward to JCCI's engagement in that regard," Peyton wrote. …

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