Will the Budget Backfire?

Lenny Curry proposed his budget for 2020-2021 to the Jacksonville City Council Wednesday morning.

Balancing a colossal public health crisis and high tension in race and policing, local legislators had much to take into account in crafting this year’s budget. Despite revenue cuts due to the novel coronavirus, the budget is up 5.5 percent from last year at $1.34 billion.  

In protests and petitions, local activists asked the city to cut JSO’s budget and reinvest in the community. Last month, Sheriff Mike Williams asked for $6.1 million more to hire 40 new officers, citing a need for increased patrolling and to fill correction officer vacancies in the jail.

The office of the sheriff still wields the biggest chunk of Jacksonville’s budget at $484,641,110 – a $3 million increase from last year.

Having campaigned on the promise to make public safety his number one priority, Mayor Curry steadily increased the police budget by $91 million since entering office. This hasn’t yet proven to make Jacksonville any safer, as murders and violent crimes also steadily increased since 2015, per crime reports by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

“We’re looking at crime as if it happens for no reason and not as a result of someone’s surroundings,” said Danielle Woods of UNF’s Students for a Democratic Society, “when we say ‘defund the police,’ that’s why we say that. In order for us to fix our crime problem we need to fix the communities that are being neglected by the city.”

Woods and other activists believe that investing in the community would remediate crime at its roots of unequal opportunity in those vulnerable neighborhoods which are targeted by police.

“Budget is one of our highest priorities. Money controls everything, money controls where you do and where you don’t go. We believe in allocating money to our schools, public transport, developing roads, and mental health.” 

“If we reallocate the money… we have therapists, we have drug specialists. We don’t need the police to work 20 different jobs because just on a human level, that’s a lot to ask someone,” said Woods. In enacting community control over police, more calls would be answered appropriately by community and social workers, preventing potential escalation by armed police.

Curry’s budget proposal for this fiscal year allocates $238.9 million to the Capital Improvement Plan, with $100 million to be invested in Northwest Jacksonville’s infrastructure.

Public works, libraries, parks, and neighborhoods each received less than 4 percent of the budget in the proposal.

The Jacksonville Community Action Committee proposed a People’s Budget focused on reallocating funds from the sheriff’s office into the community. This proposal cuts about 20 percent of JSO’s funding and suggests generous increases to parks and recreation, libraries, infrastructure and public transportation. 

Dollar amounts and statistics regarding the budget are sourced from the City of Jacksonville’s finance and administration annual budget documents.

The office of the sheriff did not fulfill our public record and media requests.

View the City of Jacksonville’s proposed annual budget:  https://www.coj.net/departments/finance/docs/budget/fy21-proposed-budget.aspx

Jacksonville Community Action Committee People’s Budget: https://jaxtakesaction.org/peoples-budget-now