While the local press has snoozed throughout the ongoing discussions in Tallahassee, a move which will vitally impact and possibly cripple the City of Jacksonville, has been afoot since the inauguration of the new Governor.The Florida State Legislature has been debating cutting property tax, which is the basis of the City of Jacksonville's budget, and the source of most city services. In a year of chronic cash shortages, such a move would deliver a significant blow to the City's coffers and the Mayor and his staff have been increasingly distracted as this possibility has crystallized into near reality.This grim reality appears to have materialized, and the city is in a near panic.
Today (Thursday, May 3rd ) late in the day, the Mayor sent out the following email to all city staff and employees.
A quick reading shows the level of panic and the anticipation of how deep the cuts will be to the City's ability to function.
Across the state, there has been a fever pitch of uproar and fear over this ill advised and draconian move on the part of the state, and yet most Jacksonvillian's are totally in the dark about this issue.
Now is the midnight hour.
The Mayor's email today read as follows:
The Florida Legislature has made the decision to conduct a special session on property tax reform. The session will be June 12 through 22. The scheduled adjournment of this session is three weeks prior to my presentation of the fiscal year 2007/2008 budget to the City Council.
Until a final decision is made at the state level, we will not know the full impact to our city budget. As I have previously written, we currently estimate the shortfall in the FY 07/08 budget to be in the range of $50 to $85 million dollars.
Given this projected shortfall, we are taking steps to budget in the most responsible way. That means preparing a budget that includes cuts of $85 million, which is consistent with the proposals pending in Tallahassee. It also means that we should not consider new revenue, as total revenue caps on local governments remain a potential option.
Because of the magnitude of the reductions that appear to be necessary, the burden must be shared across government.
Effective immediately, I have:
- Instituted a hiring freeze;
- Asked JSO and JFRD to cut 10 percent from their projected FY 07/08 budget allocation;
- Asked Constitutional Officers to cut 10 percent from their projected FY 07/08 budget allocation;
- Directed the city’s chief financial officer to cut 10 percent from the projected FY 07/08 general government budget allocation. This will not be administered as an across the board 10 percent reduction in each departmental budget as some departments may incur greater reductions than others; and
- Directed Alan Mosley, the city’s chief administrative officer, to institute a new management and organizational structure that reflects discreet business units to perform core government functions and to identify and eliminate redundant central service functions embedded across government. (The proposed business structure is attached to this message.)
The work will begin immediately and we will adjust our efforts consistent with the continued developments in Tallahassee. We will prioritize any cuts based on minimizing the reduction of services.
I recognize these are challenging and uncertain times for employees throughout city government and I’m grateful for your continued patience and professionalism. I want to assure you that we will do everything we can to provide information in a timely manner. Thank you for your continued dedication to serving the people of Jacksonville.
Sincerely, John Peyton Mayor