The City Council Finance Committee restored about $27 million to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office budget. Rutherford previously said not having that money would have required laying off more than 300 police officers, 60 correction officers, civilian positions and closing the 300-bed Community Transition Center that prepares prisoners' transition back into the community.
The sheriff's budget submitted by Mayor Alvin Brown had a $29 million extraordinary lapse, or unaccounted for cuts, that represented just under a 14 percent decease. About $1.7 million was restored through Council auditor recommendations.
The sheriff's budget of just under $390 million is the largest among the departments within the City budget, taking up about one-third of all expenditures.
Compared to past budget discussions about the sheriff's office, this year's was relatively smooth and fast-paced. Rutherford credited Council members for coming to his office for detailed discussions about how the cuts affected service levels.
He referenced past committee actions restoring quality-of-life services, such as for the library, and said the cuts to his budget were "not acceptable." The sheriff said those cuts do not represent the quality of life people in Jacksonville want or expect and that restoring his budget represented the public safety portion of that vision.
Or, as Council member Robin Lumb bluntly stated: "We can't lose 300 police officers. Or ... (60) corrections officers or close CTC (the transition center). There's nothing to debate over anymore."
"What he said," added Council member Richard Clark.
The committee approved transferring $20 million from its special Council contingency fund and allowed another $7 million in sheriff's office savings to carry over into fiscal 2013-14.
The restorations meant maintaining – not improving – current service levels. Rutherford said the office would do its best to hold the line on crime levels by using the funding, community involvement and prosecutions as a deterrent.
"We're going to do all we can with the resources we have been given," the sheriff said.
The committee's action lowered a special Council contingency fund to about $46 million.
By the end of Thursday's budget review, the potential rate increase to cover budget shortfalls was 1.09 mills, or about $47 million. In July, it voted for a tentative property tax increase of 1.5 mill for fiscal 2013-14.
The committee will continue to review the City budget this week in preparation for a late September vote.
Sheriff John Rutherford said he didn't receive the financial boost he wanted Thursday – but got what he "bottom line had to have."