Councilman proposes withholding half of JSO’s budget

Mayor’s office warns Curry will veto city budget if amendment passes

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A day before the City Council approves more than $1 billion in spending, a City Councilman is calling for changes to the way the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is funded.

Councilman Garrett Dennis held a special meeting Monday to discuss his funding plan as he seeks support for an amendment to this year’s budget, which would change how the Sheriff’s Office receives its $484 million in funding allocated by the city.

“I just want to let everyone know that I do not believe that defunding our police department is the right thing to do,” Dennis told those listening at the meeting.

The councilman is offering an amendment that would allocate $234 million to the Sheriff’s Office off the bat and then release the rest in increments as the agency reports back periodically.

“My proposal is about one thing and one thing only — it’s about accountability, it’s about transparency and it’s about communication to the Council and the community,” he said.

Dennis is set to introduce that amendment shortly before the City Council takes its budget vote on Tuesday evening.

Councilman Matt Carlucci, who chairs the council’s finance committee that approved the budget, as among those present for Monday’s meeting.

Also in attendance were many residents who took part in recent protests. Neal Jefferson was one of them, and he called for officials to reevaluate how they address the city’s problems.

"We need to put this money in other places now, like we cannot arrest our way out of the problem that we are seeing in our community, "Jefferson said.

Other individuals, like Hakeem Balogun, had questions for Council members.

“We told you 1,000 times and you’re still not listening to us, so this goes to Mr. Carlucci: what are you going to do to address what we have consistently talked about for years,” Balogun said. “Because you have not done it.”

In response, Carlucci said he would not make excuses.

“I tried to get additional dollars for these types of investments we are talking about, sir, and I failed,” Carlucci said. “And I’ll tell you I put my heart into it. I didn’t get elected into office to sit on a chair at my age and do nothing.”

The Mayor’s Office made its stance clear Monday on Dennis' proposal.

“Make no mistake, this is an attempt to defund men and women in uniform,” Chief of Staff Jordan Elsbury said. “If this comes to fruition, Mayor Curry will be forced to strongly consider vetoing the 2021 budget.”

If a veto happened, it would be the first time in recent history.

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