JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It's been a tough year for Jacksonville with police layoffs and budget cuts, but one city-owned authority is doing quite well.
That entity, JEA, in fact, recently handed out a pay bonuses to every employee.
The utility says it's been several years since it has given bonuses, but it said they've come this year because of savings. Employees banded together to come up with millions of dollars in cost-saving measures.
So the workers are being rewarded with extra money in their pockets -- a check for $1,250 to be exact.
JEA doesn't like to call it a bonus but admits that's what it is. It's a one-time pay increase for meeting safety goals this year.
Many customers say hold on.
"Oh, wow, which I think is unfair if I am the one paying for the bonuses," JEA customer Kujuanna Gullatt said.
"Customers may not understand it, but if they had to come and do and watch what are employees do day after day, they would appreciate more," said Susan Hughes, of JEA.
The bonuses come at a time when the city recently laid off police staff and city employees. JEA is independent from the city, but some question if this is a wise choice right now.
"And I get that. I understand when there is a hurting community it makes it more difficult," Hughes said. "But I also understand they would really be hurting if they did not have reliable electric, water and sewer utilities."
City Council members who learned about the bonuses Tuesday have questions but admit there is not much they can do.
"If I was working for the city, I would be a little incised by it," councilman Bill Gulliford said. "The problem -- and I understand their argument about it; they are an independent authority -- the problem is they are really not."
Not all customers are upset. Some say it helps keep rates down.
"Well, evidently they did a job they felt deserved a bonus," JEA customer Michael Knight said. "That's where bonuses come from, from a job well done."
No matter how many people complain and whatever happens, those checks have already been sent out. The employees received them last week.
As for other independent authorities, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority and the Jacksonville Port Authority are not giving bonuses. The Jacksonville Aviation Authority is.
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