Sheriff makes another pitch for funding

City Council expected to vote on millage rate at tonight's meeting

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As City Council prepares to vote on next year's millage rate at Tuesday evening's meeting, Sheriff John Rutherford continues make his case for more funding so he won't have to lay off police officers for the second year in a row.

When Mayor Alvin Brown's budget came out just over a week ago, Rutherford was already asking the city to set property taxes at the "rollback rate" -- a 0.1 increase in the millage rate -- that would generate the same level of revenue as last year. Digging into the budget two days later, Rutherford learned the cuts were $6.1 million deeper than he was told to expect.

Rutherford said that 58 correctional and 63 community service officers, along with some civilian employees, would be cut to accommodate the initial $22 million budget reduction. The deeper cuts would require the layoff of 95 sworn officers.

Rutherford is asking City Council to set the property tax at a rate that would  generate the same amount of revenue as last year, and says he will speak during the public comment period at Tuesday's council meeting.

"What this community needs to hear is by allowing this revenue -- this tax break if you will. To reduce the revenue, is going to be detrimental to the future of this community," Rutherford said Tuesday on Channel 4's The Morning Show.

While the budget does not require approval until Oct. 1, Tuesday's council meeting will be the last before the tax rate must be approved to be advertised by the Tax Collector's Office.

Council members have not been receptive to the millage increase, but some say they will look for other areas of the city budget where money could be diverted to prevent officer layoffs.

"I am going to find the programs that I think are wasteful and use that money to help restore the sheriff's budget," Councilman Stephen Joost said.

Rutherford has also suggested an ordinance that would credit savings he made to the current year budget and apply it to the 2012-13 fiscal year.

"This ordinance, what it does, is take a portion of the savings we've been able to generate in this year's budget and extend that back to the JSO next year ... so I don't have to cut 114 police positions, 95 of which are staffed right now," Rutherford said. "That's 95 pink slips. That's 95 boots off the streets."

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