Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fire Stations, Pools, Animal Control on Budget Hit List; Mayor Standing Firm on 14% Reductions in City Services by Next Week

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fire Stations, Pools, Animal Control on Budget Hit List; Mayor Standing Firm on 14% Reductions in City Services by Next Week

Article excerpt

Byline: Topher Sanders

If City Hall has to find nearly 14 percent in cuts from its basic operating budget, major cuts could be in store for services for children, public safety and sexual assault victims.

The submitted budget documents show departments' proposals call for reductions in the fire department, closing of community centers, eliminating a summer reading program serving 1,200 children and closing half of the city's outdoor swimming pools.

The city would also stop the intake of over-the-counter animals and owner surrenders at Animal Care & Protective Services, discontinue its Sexual Assault Response Center housed at the Victim Services Center and eliminate physicals, drug testing and background checks on all employees not required by law to have them.

This month the Jacksonville Public Library's Board of Trustees said it would have to close six branch locations and eliminate Sunday operations throughout the city if it is forced to find 14 percent of cuts.

Some departments, including the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, haven't turned in a list of cuts.

Departments that report to the mayor must submit their list by Friday. Constitutional officers like the sheriff do not have a set deadline and negotiations will continue during the budget process, said David DeCamp, Mayor Alvin Brown's spokesman.

The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department's list of potential reductions includes closing four fire stations and putting 10 emergency response vehicles out of service. The cuts would also mean cutting 135 positions through retirements, attrition and not filling vacancies.

Those moves would cut $7.7 million from the department's budget - short of the $12.2 million in cuts the city asked for. But Jacksonville Fire Chief Marty Senterfitt said this is as close as he can come because of contractual restrictions that prevent layoffs.

Senterfitt said the cuts would have a dramatic impact on services.

"There absolutely would be gaps in service," Senterfitt said.

That 14 percent cut directive went to all city agencies as City Hall tries to find $64 million in savings before Mayor Alvin Brown presents his budget on July 15. …

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