With less than a month left for City Council to balance a $1 billion budget, members of the Finance Committee met again Thursday, turning their attention from cutting capital projects to how to trim the city's payroll.
Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford, who went into the budget process at the beginning of the summer optimistic after years of cutting staff and programs, was told his department is not getting the new funds he was expecting.
"We had to scrap our firing range project. We can no longer hire 40 new police officers and 40 community service officers," Rutherford said.
Rutherford he was counting on those additional officers to help to make the city streets safer. Committee members say the revenue for those jobs just isn’t in the budget, and they refuse to incur more debt to pay police salaries.
"It means we’ll have to find a way to make it work," Rutherford said. "Unless they can find some revenue, this city is going to be hurting as far as building for the future unless."
Committee Chairman Richard Clark calls it an unpleasant dilemma, identifying projects that the city can no longer afford. But to cut $22 million out of the budget, it will go deeper: eliminating jobs.
"We’re going to start talking about what departments we can do without at City Hall, and what we don’t want to do as a city. That’s where we are at," Finance Committee Chairman Richard Clark said.
Making matters worse for the Finance Committee, a city auditor reported that that some city departments reported inaccurate debt totals. That means the budget items reviews over three weeks needs to be double-checked for accuracy.
"When the auditors started calling the contractors, saying, 'Let me see the numbers, the expenditures,' they didn’t exist; they didn't match," Clark said.
"It was very frustrating because we spent a lot of time ... trying to get accurate information," Council member Lori Boyer said.
Committee members say those inaccuracies reveal a real disconnect between the city's operating departments and finance department. With a balanced budget due by the end of the month, dealing with that serious issue will have to wait for another time.