In The Public Interest

Quality of Life Funding Decreases

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Editor’s note: On September 25, 2018 City council unanimously approved Mayor Lenny Curry’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018-2019 budget whose general fund totals $1.2 billion. We decided to examine the city’s funding of children, arts and culture, libraries, and nonprofit organizations that support vulnerable people. We looked at a decade’s worth of city funding of the Children’s Commission and Jacksonville Journey, now combined into the Kids Hope Alliance; the Cultural Council; public libraries; and Public Service Grants.

All budget data come from documents posted on coj.net and from Cultural Council, Public Service Grants, and Children’s Commission/Kids Hope Alliance reports. City budgets as presented here on coj.net are inconsistent and city budget pdf’s are not searchable. In Fiscal Year (FY) ’16, Jacksonville Journey funding was incorporated into the Children’s Commission budget; in FY ’17, Kids Hope Alliance replaced the Children’s Commission and Jacksonville Journey. FY ’09 through FY ’17 are actual expenditures; FY ’18 is the budget adopted by City council; the FY ’19 budget figures come from Mayor Curry’s proposed budget. Population data can be found here.  

The inflation calculator can be found here.  Nominal dollars are not adjusted for inflation; constant dollars are adjusted for inflation.

Budget priorities compared

 

October 29, 2018 –City of Jacksonville funding for libraries, children’s services, arts and culture, and vulnerable persons has remained flat at $73 million in nominal dollars for a decade. In Fy ’09, funding for these “quality of life” categories totaled $72.8 million. Mayor Lenny Curry’s proposed Fy ’19 budget totals $73.4 million for these categories, an increase of less than 1% when not accounting for inflation.

When adjusted for inflation, current funding for these categories is worth some $14 million or 18.5% less than in 2009. This despite an 8.5% increase in population, a 27% increase in the general fund, and a 37% increase in the combined Sheriff’s Office and Fire and Rescue department budgets (all nominal dollars). When adjusted for inflation, the general fund has increased almost 8%, JSO 8.5%, and Fire and Rescue 20% over the decade.

According to the city’s website, the General Fund “includes most basic municipal services” and “virtually all of the City’s revenue from taxes, licenses and permits, state-shared revenue distributions and charges for municipal services.”

PER CAPITA SUPPORT DECLINES:

The city invests $6 less per person in these quality of life services than a decade ago, having decreased from $84 to $78. This 7% decline compares unfavorably to the $259 million or 27% increase in the general fund.

Meanwhile, the city’s population increased 8.5% or 73, 657 people, from 864, 277 (2010) to 937, 934 (2017).

Public Libraries:

Public libraries lost significant ground over the past decade. Fy ’09 taxpayer funded actual expenditures totaled $37.1 million while the Fy ’19 proposed budget totals $35.7 million, a decline of $1.4 million in nominal dollars or 3.77%. Given inflation, the library system would need a city investment of $43 million in 2018 dollars to provide the same value of services it provided a decade ago. In constant dollar terms, the public library system is receiving $7.8 million less than it received from taxpayers in 2009.

Cultural Council/Public Service Grants:

Cultural Council, Public Service Grant (PSG), and Kids Hope Alliance (KHA) funding mechanisms support nonprofit organizations on a competitive basis. In Fy ’18, cultural council grants supported 26 nonprofit organizations that include the four major cultural institutions — The Cummer Museum of Arts and Gardens, Jacksonville Symphony Association, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Museum of Science and History — as well as smaller organizations that include Beaches Fine Art Series, Cathedral Arts Program, Jacksonville’s Children’s Chorus, Mandarin Museum and Historical Society, Players by the Sea, and Don’t Miss A Beat.

General Fund Vs. Quality of Life Investment

Similarly, PSG grants have supported organizations that provide emergency services, serve homeless persons and abused women, and provide medical services to indigent adults. Organizations receiving support include the I. M. Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless, Hubbard House, Jacksonville Speech and Hearing, United Way’s 211 emergency call center, Salvation Army, Legal Aid Society, Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry, and Clara White Mission.

Quality of Life Funding Trends

Children’s Commission/Jacksonville Journey/Kids Hope Alliance:

In 2017, Mayor Lenny Curry proposed and city council voted to combine the then 23 year-old Children’s Commission and the ten year-old Jacksonville Journey, independently governed public funding mechanisms, into a single mechanism called Kids Hope Alliance. According to the city ordinance that created the Alliance, the City’s intent is to “provide a continuum of services for the City’s children and youth.” Accordingly, the Alliance offers “a comprehensive and integrated system of essential children and youth programs and services that will address the critical needs of children and youth.” Services include after-school and mentoring programs, case-management, teen pregnancy, and school drop-out prevention services.

JSO and Fire and Rescue:

Jacksonville Sheriff’s office and the department of Fire and Rescue fared much better over the decade. Combined, these budgets have increased from $491.8 million in Fy ’09 to $673.38 million in the proposed Fy ’19 budget. This represents a $181 million or 37% increase in nominal dollars and a $154 million or 31% increase in constant dollars.

 

 

About the author

Sherry Magill

Sherry Magill is a community leader and retired private foundation executive. She is a co-founder of Jaxlookout.

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