Tag Archives: State Budget

Mayport Ferry Update

Ferry DockingWe heard from Councilman Bill Gulliford Monday night at our First Coast Republican Club meeting on the status of the Mayport ferry. While nothing’s been resolved just yet, Councilman Gulliford said there is a great deal of activity going on in an effort to keep the A1A connection … connected.

The bad news is that the ferry needs some $4 to $4.5 million in repairs. That doesn’t go at all to operating costs. Councilman Gulliford seems to think that there may be some untapped grant money out there that can go towards getting the boat back up to par.

We heard about the responsibility of the state to maintain a contiguous A1A. The short ferry ride connects a state highway, which would have to be re-routed around to the Dames Point bridge. And it’s pretty well understood that any Mayport revival will be nearly impossible without the traffic the ferry brings.

A1A SignBut the ferry is also considered historic by some. It was mentioned that it might be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the only auto ferry between Miami and Ocracoke Island in north Carolina. It is a unique resource which everyone loves, but no one apparently wants to pay for.

A question was asked how high the fare would have to be to make the ferry self-sustaining. Mr. Gulliford said it would have to double to $10 each way and maintain its current ridership … which if the fare were doubled is pretty unlikely. How much would ridership increase if the fare were rolled back to $2.50? Maybe not enough, but some.

From his position on the council, Gulliford is advocating an umbrella organization that would take responsibility for running the ferry. The citizens of the beach, he said, poke their heads up to save it every time it’s threatened, and once a “band-aid” is applied, go back to napping on the issue. That, he says, is part of the problem. There seems to be a feeling that the band-aid will somehow not need to be changed at some point, and we’re surprised when it does.

There is a lot of activity. Former Council President Elaine Brown is chairing a task force to save the ferry, which will have an organizational meeting Monday night at the Mayport community center at the launching ramp in the village. Mr. Gulliford said he was going to bend the Mayor’s ear at a breakfast Tuesday morning.

Floirda SealIn Tallahassee, representative Janet Adkins, who lives in Fernandina Beach, held a meeting to discuss the issue. The Florida Times-Union reports that Adkins advocates a public-private partnership to operate the ferry, but it should be paid for by stakeholders. Those would include several city and county governments, as well as the state.

“As you are getting your budgets together, as if you would be willing to fund a little piece,” she said, according to the paper. The president of the Friends of the St. Johns River took a different, and somewhat more pessimistic tack. The loss of the ferry would “(leave) the businesses along these routes to a slow economic death,” he said.

But  everyone is crying poverty. From FDOT, which arguably should maintain the boat because it connects a state highway, to the city of Jacksonville to the port, no one says they have any money for the ferry. The state, through JTA, seems to have no trouble subsidizing the Skyway, which has never realized anything close to its ridership potential. But to move 100,000 cars across the river every year, not a dime.

The good news is, the community is not going to let the ferry go down with out fight. It’s worth saving. But councilman Gulliford is correct. We should do a better job this time so that we don’t wind up a few years down the road having to go through the entire exercise again.

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Filed under A1A, Beach Living, Local Government, Local Issues, Mayport, Mayport Ferry, State Budget

What Will Survive?

With the state legislature through the second day of a special session, the budget axes are out a bit like a da Vinci scythe chariot. Scythed_chariot_by_da_Vinci

I only pulled that analogy because I was watching “Doing da Vinci” on The Discovery Channel.  Technically, I was watching on the DVR, but I digress. (picture is public domain, according to Wikipedia, where I found it).  It seems as if the legislature is slicing through the budget like this war machine was designed to slice through opposing troops.

Florida Capital News is reporting that funding for the arts has decreased dramatically since the days when tax revenues were pouring in from all the construction going on following seasons with multiple hurricanes.

When lawmakers vote on the state budget next (this) week, a cultural grant program that was nearly $34 million three years ago, and just $6.9 million this year, will shrink to $1 million.Quantcast

A historical grant program that has been whittled from $16.2 million to just $700,000 will shrivel to $200,000.

Florida is now 47th in state spending on arts and culture, a ranking unlikely to improve.

Arts funding affects everything from museum grants and historic preservation documentaries to community theaters and public broadcasting.  But with a 6 million + budget hole to be filled, it’s not surprising that lawmakers would look to what most people feel is outside the core functions of Government for places to cut spending.  And yet with so much uncertainty in the economy, every organization which depends on state funding for major chunks of its operating budget has to be eyeing this special session with some real concern.  For that segment of the economy, it’s very likely that the bottom is yet to come.

Also watching with some trepidation are state workers who are facing the prospect of a salary reduction at the end of the day.

State employees earning more than $45,000 a year will have their pay cut 2 percent under a compromise worked out Sunday by House and Senate budget negotiators.

“This will go over like a lead balloon with most of our people,” said David Murrell, executive director of the Florida Police Benevolent Association. “After two years of no pay raises, now they get a pay cut.”

Later in the article, Florida Capital News reports legislators have agreed to a quarter-mil tax increase for schools, and there are other exemptions for many specific groups.  State employees are understandably upset over pay reductions … but they have been common in many private companies trying to avoid wholesale layoffs.  Governor Crist said recently that there was no way to justify holding state employees harmless as so many others were losing their jobs.  I do hope that what’s good for the goose is good for the Governor.

There is a lot on the table during these budget negotiations.  And no matter what happens in the next few days, it’s likely that the numbers will be revised again in subsequent budget reviews … as they have been the past couple of years.  Tax receipts are not expected to rise in the near term, and while real estate is starting so show some signs of life, it’s not out of the ICU just yet.

I wish the legislators well.  It can’t be an easy task.  Every program has its constituency which wonders why theirs is the funding that is cut.  There are going to be a lot of people who walk away disappointed from this budget negotiation.  Maybe a large portion of disappointed people is one way to show they’re doing their job.

But it can’t be a lot of fun.

Sig

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Filed under Florida Legislature, State Budget, Taxes, Thoughts