JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- After three hours of questions and debates, Sheriff John Rutherford's request for the City Council to restore $10.5 million to his budget was approved by the finance committee.
"I think they clearly saw the need for public safety and they support that need," said Rutherford.
The Sheriff says that money will keep him from having to lay off 95 police officers, and from closing the Community Transition Center, a minimum security jail and drug treatment facility, which the sheriff says has been extremely successful in reducing the number of repeat offenders and helping get Jacksonville's crime rate to a 40 year low.
City Councilman Stephen Joost said, "Being known as the murder capitol of Florida does far more economic damage than moving the $12 million, or whatever that number is here, to restore the sheriff's budget."
The Sheriff said that $10.5 million is money he saved during the last fiscal year through cutbacks and layoffs.
City Councilman Clay Yarborough said, "The sheriff acted wisely in saving that money and not hiring new folks that we're not firing after only one year."
While the committee approval is a small victory for the Sheriff, he says his department is still feeling the pinch. Community Service Officers are gone. Seventy four police positions are gone. And 154 civilian positions have been eliminated.
"That's what people have to remember," said Sheriff Rutherford. "This $10.5 only brings back the police and the CTC. The other $11 million or so in cuts are still there."
Not every City Council member was behind the sheriff today. Finance committee chairman, John Crescimbeni, says giving the sheriff back that money will hurt other departments in the city.
"We're going to cut library employees to pay police officers pension costs and I don't think that's right. We're going to cut public works employees to pay police officer pension costs. I don't think that's right," he said.
Crescimbeni went on to say, "I'm disappointed in that my colleagues don't recognize that we're taking all of our savings from all of the other departments and giving them all to the sheriff to offset his pension costs."
The sheriff agrees, the money is just a quick fix. Without pension reform, he'll find himself needing another financial fix next year. "We have one year to get it right or public safety is in deep peril," said Rutherford.
But Crescimbeni says he's heard the sheriff's argument before. And until the pension problem is actually addressed, he'll probably hear it again next year. "It's just a broken record. Just keeps playing over and over," he said.
The sheriff's request still needs the approval of the full council.
The City Council must have the entire budget approved by October 1st.