Mayor Lenny Curry’s 2021 proposed budget continues to flatten public support for quality of life organizations. Elected in spring 2015 and reelected in 2019, Curry’s budgets have not enhanced support for libraries, cultural organizations, or safety net organizations. The one significant exception is the Kids Hope Alliance, a city funded organization Curry created by combining the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and Jacksonville Journey.
Curry’s proposed FY ’21 budget (Oct 1, 2020 – Sept 30, 2021), currently under review by City Council finance committee, modestly increases funding for public safety but holds steady funding for quality of life activities, especially when inflation is considered. (access budget here: https://www.coj.net/departments/finance/docs/budget/fy21-proposed-budget.aspx
When combined, funding for quality of life activities (public libraries, Public Service Grants, Cultural Council, and Kids Hope Alliance) increases less than half a percent (.427%) from the previous year (FY ’20). These line items totaled $76,328,981 in the current fiscal year. The Mayor’s proposed budget increases this total a mere $326,673 for next year, for a total budget of $76,655,654.
Meanwhile, public safety funding (Fire and Rescue and Sheriff combined) increases $15,441,320 or 2.06%. At $764,087,655, the public safety budget constitutes 56.9% of the $1.3 billion general fund. Quality of life funding totals 6% of the general fund budget.
Quality of Life Funding: FY ’16 – FY ’20
Curry funding for libraries, cultural organizations, and nonprofits that provide social safety net activities (Public Service Grants) has remained relatively flat over his time in office. The Kids Hope Alliance, a combination of funding previously supporting the Children’s Commission and Jacksonville Journey, is the one outlier in the quality of life category. Kids Hope Alliance funding, under Mayor Curry, has increased from $24.1 million in FY ‘16 to $35.3 million in the proposed Fy ’21 budget, for an increase of 46%.
Public libraries received $31.6 million in FY ’16 and are budgeted to receive $35.3 million this coming year, for a 11.7% increase. Cultural Council funding increased 7.1% (from $2.8 million to $3.0 million). Public Service Grants increased 12% (from $2.6 million to $2.9 million).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a good costing $1 in 2016 would cost $1.08 in 2020. Consequently, public library funding enjoys a real dollar increase in funding of 2.8% over Curry’s time in office. Kids Hope Alliance enjoys a 35.55 % real dollar increase, Public Service Grants a 3.6% increase, and the Cultural Council a 0% increase.