JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Action News just obtained a letter from Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford that details a proposal to eliminate hundreds of positions with in the department, and a bold proposal to raise property tax rates.
Sheriff Rutherford outlines in the letter a budget crisis that would mean painful cuts for both, the department and our community.
One of the reasons for the shortfall, according to the sheriff's letter to his staff, is pensions.
"It has actually been strained even further by the increased required pension payment combined with revenue shortage caused by the continued declines in our property values, resulting in a decline in revenue from property taxes," Sheriff Rutherford's letter reads.
In the letter, Sheriff Rutherford tells his staff he wants to eliminate the Community Service Officer program and a minimum security corrections facility that helps criminals transition back to normal life.
The sheriff is suggesting a cut of 319 positions. Positions that include 74 officer positions that are or will be vacant this year, 91 corrections positions, 58 of which are currently staffed, and 154 civilian positions, of which 72 are currently staffed. In total, about 130 people would be laid off.
The sheriff says hopefully he won't have to make these drastic cuts but he wants to prepare the department and our community for it. The sheriff says the potential cuts will have a big impact on public safety.
"I will be advocating for an increase in our property tax rate, to provide necessary revenue for public safety," wrote the sheriff. "Our property tax rate is purported to be (if not the lowest) among the lowest of any large city in the state. I want you to know that you remain my top priority - your safety, your well-being, and by extension, the safety and welfare of all our citizens."
Action News has obtained a statement from the office of Mayor Brown on the potential cuts to the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office:“I have personally met with Sheriff Rutherford numerous times in the development of the proposed city budget. While I respect the Sheriff and our dedicated public safety officers and employees, I strongly disagree with the Sheriff’s proposal to raise property taxes on hardworking taxpayers. In these very difficult economic times where nearly 38,000 Jacksonville citizens are unemployed, taxpayers cannot afford to bear additional burdens. Instead, every branch of government must do its part to streamline operations, eliminate duplication, and increase efficiency. Key services like fire and rescue, libraries, and children’s programs should not have to sustain more than their fair share in spending cuts.”