Finance Committee: No new police, city positions

Jacksonville City Council must approve budget by Oct. 1


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The will be no new police or community service officers this year for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, the City Council Finance Committee decided Thursday.

It's not just police. There will be no new hires anywhere in the city.

Sheriff John Rutherford plans on talking to the full council before a final vote in September.

The mayor's budget calls for 40 new officers and 40 new community service officers -- a $4.4 million cost.

But the Finance Committee, which met Thursday, is adamant there will be no new hires.

Rutherford is not upset with them, but with the mayor for presenting a budget without proper funding.

"We will continue to rob Peter to pay Paul," Rutherford said. "I am moving some officers in town to other areas of town where violent crime is up. Violent crime is my No. 1 priority. That is what we are going to address first and foremost."

"I think we recognized clearly there's some differences between the administration and the City Council," said Chris Hand, Mayor Alvin Brown's chief of staff. "But there's always the budget process. You've got to remember, Jim, whether it's the capital investments we propose for the vehicle investments or a variety of other items in our budget is a lot of collaboration between the City Council and the administration before the budget was even presented."

Finance Committee Chairman Richard Clark was asked what about public safety and the impact this will have.

"They should've thought about that before the budget was presented," Clark said. "The immediate impact, we know it's going to be difficult."


The Finance Committee also heard Thursday about red-light cameras. Apparently they are working and people are stopping and not running red lights.

As a result, the cameras are not generating any additional money for the city.

Some social programs also took cuts Thursday, including additional funding for UF Health Jacksonville., which is not going to get additional money to help with medical care for the poor.

A spokesman issued this statement: "Though we are disappointed in the committee's decision, we understand that the city is facing difficult financial decisions as it puts together a new budget. ... We are hopeful this decision will be reconsidered by the City Council during the budget process."

Thursday's Finance Committee meeting was the beginning of a series of hearings on the mayor's proposed $1 billion budget.

The meeting came days after the council voted to not pursue a property tax increase, locking city leaders into existing revenue to fund next year's spending.

Brown's office insists the budget is balanced, but council members have already criticized using money from the city's emergency funds to pay for some of the spending.

"(We) need to make cuts. We can't grow. We don't have the revenue in place," Clark said before Thursday's meeting. "You need to think about tightening the belt, not about growing. (It's) very difficult for them to understand when they were handed a budget from administration with grandiose ideas."

The mayor's office disagrees, insisting the budget is "totally balanced," and any money from reserves is being used for one-time investments in revitalizing downtown, parks and the city's libraries.

Jacksonville Fire-Rescue Department Chief Marty Senterfitt was also defending his budget before the committee at Thursday's all-day hearing. The committee is set to meet again from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, and has five more budget hearings scheduled over the next three weeks.  The full council must approve the budget before the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

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