JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With the city of Jacksonville going into the budget process facing a $58 million deficit, the mayor's staff is asking all department heads to identify more savings.
After laying off 48 officers, eliminating 20 additional positions and cutting other officers' pay by 3 percent last year, Sheriff John Rutherford says he can't give any more.
"If there are layoffs, there is going to be a fight because I am not laying police officers off again," Rutherford told Channel 4's Jim Piggott on Wednesday. "We have the lowest crime numbers we had in 40 years. We have got to figure out something else to do before we start laying police officers off."
Preliminary figures call for the Sheriff's Office to get $364 million in the budget year starting in October. While that's about $19 million more than last year, the majority of that additional money is just to pay the increasing cost of pensions.
"What is driving this is really the pension numbers, which I have no control over," Rutherford said. "The mayor's office negotiates that (and) is responsible for fixing that."
There will be several more meetings between the city and Sheriff's Office before Mayor Alvin Brown will present his proposed budget to City Council next month, but city officials say revenue is way down.
The Fraternal Order of Police represents the majority of the 3,000 employees who work at the Sheriff's Office. FOP President Nelson Cuba said in the past the city has asked the Sheriff's Office to cut, cut, cut, but somehow the city always ends up with extra money.
"We did our part -- more than what is right with that 3 percent pay cut that we took," Cuba said.
Channel 4's crime expert, Ken Jefferson, who was a candidate for sheriff last year, said officers are concerned about more layoffs.
"I have heard there have been threats of additional layoffs if they can't come up with a way to reallocate resources," Jefferson said. "The Sheriff's Office has to take a real stern look at how they operate. They have to take a look at upper management."
The sheriff sounds like he's gearing up to protect his department from additional cuts.
"We cannot go backwards," Rutherford said. "We are not going to cut our way to greatness at the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office."
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