It wasn’t about where the money was going — every last member of the Jacksonville City Council wanted to direct several million dollars to help the homeless population. The disagreement on Tuesday evening was about where the funds should come from.
The Council ultimately shot down a budget amendment that would have redirected $3.1 million from the mayor’s $25 million budget allocation for recommendations made by her transition team.
Council member Terrance Freeman proposed the contested amendment. Freeman said the change was aimed at putting the money to use more quickly because the mayor’s task forces had recommended tackling homelessness anyway.
“This amendment will only assure that these dollars will be restricted… solely for homelessness. No change of plans,” said Freeman in introducing the amendment.
Several others agreed with Freeman’s directive, including Councilman Raul Arias.
“We have the opportunity to use the dollars right now for something that you guys wanted to use right now,” Arias said, referring to a recently failed effort to tax food and drinks to support homelessness initiatives. “I’m not raising taxes to solve an issue. We have money to solve that issue. Let’s use it.”
But Joe Inderhees, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, asked Council to leave the $25 million intact so the legislative and executive branches could work together on implementing the task force recommendations.
“Among the recommendations put forward by the transition committee are ways to help the newly homeless get back on their feet,” Inderhees said. “We understand several Council members are interested in this topic. We have some great ideas, and those deserve to be explored… All we ask is that you leave the $25 million budget intact so that we can accomplish these goals together.”
Councilman Matt Carlucci, along with the majority, felt the mayor’s task force funding should be left to the executive branch to divvy up.
“The $25 million was put together through these transition committee meetings. That was done with the public for several weeks and several months,” Carlucci said. “It was a commitment that the mayor made with members of the public, with the electorate, and the over 9,000 individuals that helped her get over the top. She said, ‘I want to make sure your voice is heard.’ Now we have a Council member who’s trying to take money away from those voices.”
In the end, the amendment had only five votes of support and 13 opposed.
The debate came during a six-hour meeting on Tuesday as the City Council approved an overall spending plan of $1.75 billion, which retains last year’s property tax rate of about $11.32 per $1,000 of taxable property value for all of Duval County except the Beaches areas and Baldwin. Each of those governments set their own tax rates.