JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sheriff John Rutherford is speaking out about the potential for massive cuts to his department.
Mayor Alvin Brown asked all city agencies, including the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, to submit a budget that calls for a 14% reduction in controllable operating costs. Those costs include areas like payroll and equipment and maintenance. It would not cut from pension or healthcare costs.
The budget for JSO was originally marked at $366 million but ballooned to about $390 million due to increasing pension and healthcare costs, according to a City of Jacksonville spokesman.
Action News has learned, to maintain a 14% cut in the Sheriff’s department, he would need to slash about $29 million. Sheriff John Rutherford tells Action News that it won’t happen.
"A $29 million cut would result in the layoff of hundreds of police officers and correctional officers and that would violate my constitutional obligations to provide public safety for the city," said Rutherford.
Rutherford says he will fight the Mayor’s administration when it comes to across the board cuts.
Rutherford is calling for city council members to pass Mayor Brown’s pension reform plan. He says it will help fill the budget hole for next year and will help alleviate the threat of cuts to JSO.
The president of Jacksonville’s city council doesn’t believe JSO should face the same budget cuts as other agencies.
"You prioritize,” said Bill Gulliford. “What's the most important? My idea is public safety, public works and then you go down right on the list according to the importance to the communities."
A JSO spokesperson sent Action News its latest budget proposal sent to the Mayor’s office Tuesday. It compares department costs in a line-by-line comparison of the city vs. JSO’s evaluation of next year’s expenses. It doesn’t include revenues or reductions.
As of Wednesday, JSO predicts it will spend about $1.7 million less than what the city expected.
Local minister, James Durden, says any type of reduction within the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office would be devastating for the public’s safety.
“It would be drastic because of their presence,” said Durden. “It's a big help to the community and without their presence, crime is everywhere.”
Mayor Alvin Brown will present his budget to the Jacksonville City Council on Monday.