Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Budget Is Smooth but City Finances Are Still Tight

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Budget Is Smooth but City Finances Are Still Tight

Article excerpt

Byline: Ron Littlepage

Today I'm writing what probably will be a boring column on a subject many people consider boring.

Yes, August brings us the City Council's Finance Committee budget hearings.

Let's just say those hearings are not as exciting as a WWE Cage Match although on occasion in past years they have resembled one.

Except for a few blips, this year's hearings could be described as easy-peasy.

Such things as a $4 million oversight by the Mayor's Office when the recommended budget was put together would have caused gnashing of teeth by City Council members had it been done by former Mayor Alvin Brown's finance team.

But Mayor Lenny Curry's team, led by his chief administrative officer, Sam Mousa, and his finance director, Mike Weinstein, have a good relationship with council members. Brown didn't.

You could attribute that to the fact that most council members are Republicans as is Curry while Brown is a Democrat.

But while there may be a little partisanship in play, both Mousa and Weinstein have solid track records with previous administrations that give them - OK, I'll go ahead and use that word - gravitas.

They also are quick to answer questions with reasonable explanations, which wasn't a strong point with Brown's team.

That and solid leadership by the Finance Committee's chair, Anna Lopez Brosche, have resulted in budget hearings that have proceeded smoothly.

I usually try to attend most of the annual budget hearings, but I've only been able to attend a few and watch a few others on video.

One thing that always stands out is the contradiction to the chorus of complaints that council members are overpaid and underworked.

Council members who serve on Finance and others who sit in on the hearings put in long days, often beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m., fine-tuning the budget for the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

Here are a few takeaways from this year's hearings:

During a discussion on the Better Jacksonville Plan, Weinstein said revenues from the half-cent BJP sales tax have rebounded enough from the recession that the city should be able in the next few months to do some of the plan's promised projects on a pay-as-you-go basis. …

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