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JSO budget restored, will likely lead to tax hike

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Updated: 8/29/2013 8:19 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Sheriff John Rutherford is one step closer to getting his money back after a City Council finance committee unanimously approved restoring $27 million to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office budget on Thursday.

Under the measure, the city would restore $20 million to JSO, allowing Rutherford to keep more than $7 million in savings from this year into the upcoming budget.

How to fill that $20 million is still a big question at City Hall. Council will have to make deep cuts in other departments, but that likely won't be enough.

Thursday's vote, according to many council leaders, solidified the fact that a tax hike is coming for Jacksonville homeowners.

"It's not really an easy choice, but I don't see really where there's actually a choice because we can't leave people unprotected. If you prioritize, you have to put public safety first," said City Council President Bill Gulliford.

Soon-to-be father, Dustin Bell, said he's willing to pay more in taxes to ensure the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has the resources it needs to curb crime in the River City.

"For me, being a family person, I like the safety aspect so I agree with spending a little extra to keep myself and my family safe," said Bell.

Mayor Alvin Brown submitted a budget that called for more than $27 million in unspecified cuts to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Rutherford had asked City Council to restore all funding, or he will have to lay off 381 police officers and eliminate related vehicle and equipment costs. That would add up to about $22.8 million in savings.

Rutherford also said JSO would be forced to close the Community Transition Center, an in-jail drug treatment program that employs 60 corrections officers. Rutherford said Jacksonville's drop in violent crime is creeping back up after what he calls "drastic budget cuts" in recent years.

"This is a tale of two cities," he said. There was little debate over handing millions over to JSO.

"I couldn't believe that we could go forward with those kind of cuts," said Gulliford. "It's totally unrealistic. You can't leave the city unprotected."

Jacksonville's top cop told Action News he now has what he needs to maintain current public safety levels.

"I'm still 147 officers down," said Rutherford. "I'm still 92 community service officers down. We're just not laying any more off. That's why when you say 'Did you get what you want?' Heck no, I want those 147 officers back and I want those 92 CSOs back."

The measure will have to be approved by the full Jacksonville City Council. It has until Sept. 30 to create a balanced budget.

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Action News Jacksonville

Realchange - 8/30/2013 5:57 AM
2 Votes
How many police officers are on the police force now? Rutherford is selling a pig in blanket that stinks. Notice the red light camera's going up everywhere? Now they tell you got increase your taxes to make you safer or else. The implied or else is that they will let crime go even further. Do as we say or we just sit back and let the criminals have their way till your willing to pay us. Sounds like Mafia except police can break many laws that common people cannot. Texting and driving causing accidents, killing people at their homes without search warrants and getting the wrong address, killing police officer dogs with no charges, tinted windows for their safety that exceed state laws. Running around with automatic weapons in unmarked cars then having the weapons stolen and not recovered. Anyone who thinks they keep you safe had better see how long it takes them to respond to a violent crime report.

wishmistress - 8/30/2013 4:48 AM
2 Votes
I will NOT VOTE to reelect any of the members in office who approve this garbage! Time to CLEAN HOUSE all around.

Truthseeker - 8/30/2013 4:31 AM
3 Votes
So the Jax politicians spent all kinds of money on the Jaguars and now they need to increase taxes to pay for police services??? Maybe the leaders of Duval County need an explanation of the differences between a "need" and a "want".
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