Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sheriff Falls Short on Meeting Budget Cuts; He Had to Trim $32 Million, but Offers Less Than $4 Million

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sheriff Falls Short on Meeting Budget Cuts; He Had to Trim $32 Million, but Offers Less Than $4 Million

Article excerpt

Byline: MATT GALNOR and MARY KELLI PALKA

A standoff is brewing between Mayor John Peyton and Sheriff John Rutherford as the city prepares for up to $75 million in budget cuts.

Peyton ordered all departments this month to cut their proposed budgets for next year by 10 percent in response to property tax changes on the table in Tallahassee.

Rutherford's share comes to about $32 million out of more than $327 million for next year, according to city records. On Thursday, Rutherford offered less than $4 million - including 45 jobs.

None are officers on the street. But the two on Peyton's security detail would be reassigned.

Anything more would "seriously impact public safety" and would need to be prioritized against other departments in the city's more than $900 million budget, Rutherford said.

But if Rutherford won't do it, Peyton says he'll cut the remaining $28 million.

"Quite frankly, no one wants to cut public safety," Peyton said. "We have increased it 35 percent since I've been mayor and really on the backs of other nonpublic safety budgets."

It's still all talk at this point and will be until the end of the special legislative session June 12-22. The mayor must provide a draft budget to the City Council in July. The city is projecting losses of up to $50 million in property tax revenue, on top of a $25 million projected deficit because of rising expenses. Revenues are forecasted to be up about $50 million, aside from any state action.

Peyton says he thinks officers will need to be pulled off the street if the $75 million is lost.

"I think 10 percent of his budget will represent diminished service, as it will with everyone's department," Peyton said.

No other department has refused to provide Peyton with 10 percent cuts.

A proposal from the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, for example, includes closing three fire stations and eliminating 150 jobs - about half of which are already vacant.

The city is also discussing shortening library hours, reducing public service grants and spending less on maintaining parks and ball fields. …

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