Sheriff finds $3.3 million for workers' comp; will keep Matrix House open

Jacksonville City Council committee OKs plan to rollover JSO savings

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office says it found $3.3 million to fund its workers' comp liability, the City Council Finance Committee on Tuesday agreed to let JSO keep the $10 million it will spend to keep a jail drug transition program open.

City Council members thought this problem was solved earlier in the budget debate when it passed a bill to allow the Sheriff's Office to carry over millions in savings from officer layoffs last year to the new budget year. Then the city said outstanding disability claims would consume much of that money -- leaving the award-winning Matrix House jail rehabilitation program in jeopardy again.

Tuesday's decision doesn't reverse existing Sheriff's Office cuts, just allows it to carry forward $10 million funded last year into the budget year that begins Oct. 1.

Undersheriff Dwain Senterfitt says while this makes it sound like JSO won, it actually lost.

"We are still cutting another $12 million," Senterfitt said. "We are still cutting 74 police positions. We are cutting 22 corrections positions. We are cutting 154 civilian positions. We have not gotten everything."

While this issue appears settled, there are questions on both sides: Why the city brought up the workers' comp liability so late in the budget process, and how the sheriff found millions of dollars to pay that bill in a budget he complained was too tight.

Finance Committee Chairman John Crescrimbeni says this whole notion of keeping saved money leaves him with lots of questions.

"I think we destroyed any internal incentive to continue to save," Crescimbeni said. "The library had $1.6 million in savings. The City Council had $200,000 in savings. Public works has $4 million in savings. None of those agencies are going to be able to get that money."

Senterfitt sees it differently.

"Crescimbeni and I disagreed up there," Senterfitt said. "He said by giving me the money, I was taking it from somebody else. I have to disagree with him on that. That is money we saved in our budget."

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