Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Mayor Looks To Raise Taxes


Originally uploaded by JaxPolitics

According to WOKV’s Jared Halpern, Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton pitched the idea of increasing the City’s millage rate in a private meeting with local business leaders Tuesday morning.

While a millage rate increase had been discussed in several circles, particularly in light of the recent JCCI study that showed the city in rather dire financial straights, it had remained unclear up to this point whether or not the Mayor would be on board with any increase.  News of this discussion between the Mayor and prominent business and civic leaders would seemingly indicate that the Mayor has concluded the only way to deal with the city’s $65 million deficit, as well as the city’s pension crisis, would be through tax increases.

The challenge for the Mayor will be twofold.  For starters, this isn’t the first time the Mayor has floated the idea of a millage rate increase, only to drop it after facing public opposition.  The original Jacksonville Journey Commission recommended a millage rate increase and the Commission felt quite sure the Mayor would support their recommendations—he had pledged to repeatedly in private conversations.  However, he dropped his support after a poll was released showing public opposition.  Business and civic leaders are certain to greet the Mayor’s proposal with a great deal of skepticism this time.

The Mayor must also convince the public, something that will no doubt be the most difficult task of all.  Voters remain wary of City Hall, and continue to display a growing discontent over the expenditure of taxpayer dollars.  Any case to raise taxes (although many will argue that a millage rate does not necessarily raise taxes as property values have declined) must be made with a clear outline of how the money will be spent.  For example, will the city return to its previous practice of dedicating half a mill to maintenance and upkeep of capital improvements?

If the Mayor wants to win this battle, he needs to define the mission before the public’s mind is already made up.  The JCCI being cited to justify this tax increase, spoke first of increasing public trust.  It was assumed that rebuilding that trust would be the crucial first step in solving the city’s financial crisis.  Already, news of a proposed tax increase would seem to have gotten ahead of rebuilding that trust.   With the news now out there, the clock has now begun to tick.

(And, perhaps a future suggestion to the Mayor…if you are looking to discuss proposals in private, you might want to make sure Nelson Cuba is not in the room.)

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Group Says City Finances In Dire Straits

Jacksonville Community Council Inc Executive Director Skip Cramer says the groups recent study of city finances was desperately needed.  “The important role of the JCCI process of non-partisan community engagement was never more evident than in this study,” Cramer said.   “Citizens representing a wide spectrum of views and political beliefs came together over eight months, putting their own personal interests aside, to tackle some very difficult issues.”

Three decades ago, in 1977, JCCI released their first study.  It happened to be on the finances of the City of Jacksonville.  At the time, the study found the city “to be basically sound, with the exception of the underfunding of its pension plans.”  Now, thirty-five years after the release of that study, JCCI finds itself in a similar position—studying the city’s finances.  The group says that the 2009 study has identified problems that were worse than prior years.  The city is struggling with underfunded pensions and what they term the long-term effects of short-term planning by both the city and the state.

“Jacksonville is facing a financial crisis which threatens its financial sustainability,” said Study Committee Chair J.F. Bryan IV.  “[It’s] time to make some difficult decisions.”  Bryan pointed to pressing budget concerns which have been brought on by significant reduction in revenues and also raised concerns that the city’s long-term debt issue is threatening to spiral out of control.

“Business as usual cannot continue,” Bryan said, “It is no longer acceptable to finance major projects by deferring payment on them to future generations.  We have done so for far too long, ignoring the consequences of passing on debt obligations in the interest of short-term political expediency.”

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Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville, , , ,

JCCI Prepared to release study of City Finances

Jacksonville Community Council Inc is prepared to release the results of its in-depth study on the city’s financial condition tomorrow, Wednesday, June 10 at 11:00AM.  According to JCCI Executive Director Skip Cramer, there is “in fact in a financial crisis in Jacksonville.”  Cramer says that he is not certain how aware the public is of that situation.

More information on the study can be found at JCCI’s website or visit JaxPoliticsOnline.com tomorrow afternoon for a more detailed look at the group’s findings.

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