JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Incentives are a game of give and take. The city offers a company money to entice it to set up shop in the Jacksonville. In return, that company agrees to hire a certain number of people. But an audit, recently obtained by Action News, shows not all of those companies kept their end of the bargain.
"So it's just like a company came in and said 'going to produce 40 jobs.' Generally it was 35 or 36 jobs," said City Councilman Stephen Joost. He says the audit, which is a follow-up to a December 2011 audit, uncovers good news and bad news. The good news is 94% of the companies were in compliance.
"The bad news is we didn't have 100% compliance, which is what we want," he said. "So, we're going to go back and we'll get the money back that is owed to the taxpayers that these incentives paid out."
The audit says that could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. But according to Bill Scheu, chairman of the Incentive Monitoring and Compliance Task Force, that money can only be recovered if there's a clawback in the contract. "A clawback is where you can go back and get funds that were improperly granted, if that turns out to be the case, he said.
Joost says he couldn't name the companies not in compliance, but he says they are still operating here in Jacksonville. And they have a chance to make it right. "They'll realize, hey, we promised 40 jobs. We only gave 36. We'll refund the difference. Or they'll go out and produce the other four jobs or five jobs that were required. You know, each deal is a little different."
These incentive overpayments were between 2007 and 2011, before Mayor Brown was in office. And they were made under the now-defunct JEDC, or the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission. That office has been replaced with the Mayor's Office of Economic Development.
And now, Scheu says there is a full-time employee dedicated to finding, fixing, and preventing these mistakes from happening again.