EDITOR’S NOTE: This story previously stated incorrectly that Mayor Deegan proposed a $1.7 billion budget. The story has been updated to reflect the accurate proposal figure of $3.9 billion.
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA — New Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan’s first big decision is to spend more taxpayer money than any mayor before her.
Deegan proposed a $3.9 billion budget to the Jacksonville City Council on Monday. The historic budget is roughly $80 million higher than the 2022-2023 budget proposed by Deegan’s Republican predecessor, Lenny Curry. Curry also championed big hikes in government spending and pushed for multiple tax increases. His final budget proposal in 2022 was $400 million higher than his first in 2015.
“This budget reflects the priorities of the people. It invests their money in ways that will create more opportunities to live, earn, learn and love with a good quality of life,” Deegan said at City Hall on Monday. “It is intentional. It keeps the promises of the past and builds a city of the future. A city that works for all of us and where our children will choose to stay and raise their own families.”
The budget projects more than 230 new full-time government employees will be added to the City’s payroll. Three new staffers are called to expand the Office of Resiliency, including a “Climate Data Manager.” Overall $10 million in taxpayer dollars will go toward resilience infrastructure and staff positions.
“We must aggressively address the simple mathematical fact that sea levels are rising,” Deegan said. “We see it in daytime flooding, and we certainly see it when storms hit Jacksonville.”
Deegan’s proposal also calls for the hiring of 40 new police officers – half of the number Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters said the city needs to add.
“I’ve looked at the numbers, and in a fast-growing city of our size, we absolutely need more police officers on the streets and in our communities,” she said.
Deegan also hopes to give $26.8 million to help improve roadways – a 67 percent increase from last year– and over $21 million toward helping the city’s permitting and inspection process.
“Infrastructure is the foundation for everything even if it’s not always glamorous,” Deegan said.
The budget allocates $17.5 million to pay for the removal of septic tanks that she said are polluting the St. Johns River, along with another $1 million to teach people why they need to stop using septic tanks.
Another $8.2 million is proposed for Jacksonville’s “Cultural Council,” $7.5 million is for “health, housing and homelessness” programs and a whopping $65 million to UF Health.