Sunday, July 12, 2009

How budget cuts equal more spending in Jacksonville

A list of $993.8 million in expenses for Jacksonville's next fiscal year shows that despite departmental budget-trimming, spending at City Hall is projected to increase.

Although the city's projected $110 million in pension costs next fiscal year has been made a primary culprit, there are also concerns about the growing cost of health care and electricity.

The numbers remain fluid until Mayor John Peyton delivers his budget proposal Monday to City Council, but overall spending appears to be going up by $22.4 million.

The 2.3 percent increase for 2009-10 tops last year's 1.8 percent, which was heralded as the lowest since 1991, despite a multimillion-dollar public safety increase.

Next year's budget is growing despite $41 million in planned cuts, most of them to employee compensation. To prevent deeper cuts, Peyton is proposing a 12 percent property tax rate increase.

Although he gave department heads a directive to cut at least 5 percent from their operating budgets, total departmental expenses are expected to jump by $33 million, according to the latest figures released by the mayor's office.

However, $30 million of that increase stems from more spending by the police and fire departments, which were not directed to trim their budgets.

Although Peyton is proposing cutting $1.1 million from the libraries on top of the 5 percent reduction, the library budget actually is increasing by $3.3 million.

Since Peyton took office in 2003, non-public safety spending has dropped roughly $7 million, while the overall budget has grown by about $270 million.

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