City budget miscalculated by $5 million

City Council must balance nearly $1 billion budget by Oct. 1


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city of Jacksonville's chief financial officer admitted Thursday his staff miscalculated the city's proposed budget by more than $5 million, leaving City Council a slightly bigger hole to fill.

"It was an error, and we are going to have to make an adjustment for that," CFO Ronnie Belton said. "We didn't know that until very recently, and it was just mathematical computation done wrong. An error is an error, so it amounts to about $5-plus million, and council recognizes that and wants to deal with it."

Belton announced the budget blunder at a finance committee meeting, the first in which City Council members began crunching the numbers and asking questions about line items left in limbo.

"What are the items, in your mind, that are still out there?" asked councilman Greg Anderson.

"The very first one, of course, is the budget for the sheriff," budget director Glenn Hansen said. "At this particular time, we've asked (the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office) for $26.5 million, which is the amount of their increase in terms of their pension."

City staff directed focus to the debt obligation created by the city's pension programs, making it clear more cuts must be made to the nearly $1 billion budget.

"Right now when you add it up, we talked about the $120 million, $22 million for the police and fire. But when we look at all three pension funds, we're talking about $150.3 million," Belton said. "That's real. That's a check we've got to write."

Belton indicated more jobs could be on the chopping block. There is a list of more than 400 positions that may be cut. The city says the people who will be out of work if this budget passes have not been told.

"They will be made aware well in advance of the end of September that their job potentially could be going away," said city administrator Jessica Deal.

Belton said more cuts will likely be made, but it's up to City Council to finalize the budget.