JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Last week, with the sound of a gavel, everyone left the city budget hearings with the belief Jacksonville’s budget was finally balanced.
But not anymore.
"We could be facing a shortfall in the neighborhood of $5 million," said Finance Chairman John Crescimbeni.
How did it happen?
Crescimbeni is pointing to the city’s fire department and sheriff’s office. He says the two agencies went way over budget on their worker’s compensation claims.
"Both of those departments have way exceeded their allocation for claims this year,” said Crescimbeni.
In June, Crescimbeni says the cost overruns were around $4.5 million. He says they were planning to cover that with savings. But now, he claims, the number has grown to more than $7 million and they’re projecting it’ll get even bigger by the end of the month.
“If we deal with it in this year’s budget we may have to apply it to those agencies. It would mean they would have to figure out a way to cut their costs,” said Crescimbeni.
But Sheriff John Rutherford said Wednesday night this news came as a complete surprise.
"This is bad gamesmanship on the part of the mayor's office. Our workers comp claims haven't changed. There’s not a single claim there today that wasn’t there six months ago when they said everything was fine,” Rutherford said.
The Sheriff doesn’t believe the deficit really exists. He says the city is calculating claims that will not hit for another two years all because they want him to give back a chunk of his savings.
"Look there's no hole there. They've created a hole through their allocation methodology. This is a grab for that 10.5 million that's all this is,” said Rutherford.
If the cuts are divided up between JFRD and JSO, Rutherford says it would force him to close the Community Transition Center. He isn’t taking it lightly.
JSO sent a public records request to the city Wednesday afternoon demanding all supporting documentation about workers comp, including emails. Rutherford says if he doesn’t receive a response by Friday he’s considering suing the city.
"Show me. Show me where it changed and show me what numbers changed. They can't do it,” he said.
The city’s Finance Committee is also requesting information. They gave JFRD and JSO two weeks to come up with suggestions to solve this situation.
Finance Committee is scheduled to meet Friday morning at 8:30am.