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Sheriff Mike Williams
Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jun. 14, 201612:00 PM EST

Budget panel noncommittal on Sheriff's Office proposed increases of $14M, including 40 police officers

by: David Chapman

No promises. Not even for public safety.

In what’s shaping up to be a particularly painful budget year, Mayor Lenny Curry’s team putting together the city spending plan Monday heard about the needs of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

The department would like another 40 officers and 40 community service officers, both levels that would match Curry’s first year. Cost: $4.9 million.

There’s a need to replace the department’s computer-automated dispatch system that’s expected to fail within the next couple of years. Cost: $3.9 million.

The aging fingerprint identification system continues to fail and needs an overhaul. Cost: $1.9 million.

Laptops burn out fairly quickly in the hot Florida sun inside patrol vehicles. Cost: $750,000.

Various information technologies boosts: $1.8 million.

All told, the sought enhancements came out to $14.3 million. The department’s annual budget is more than $400 million.

Most of the IT-related asks are becoming critical after being pushed back for years, Undersheriff Pat Ivey told the group.

The needs were heard, but couldn’t be met just yet. Rising expenses, headlined by close to $280 million in pension payments are eating away at any boosts.

“We can’t promise anything this moment,” Sam Mousa, Curry’s chief administrative officer, told Sheriff Mike Williams and his staff at the end of the committee meeting.

Yes, Curry’s priorities lie in public safety. And yes, Mousa said extras doled out could end up within the sheriff’s office.

However, the city has a lot of needs and the budget team hasn’t sifted through every department’s proposal.

Even then, Mousa acknowledged the end will have a “negative nut.” No promises. No enhancements, at least not yet.

“We’re absolutely going to try (to find additional money) because the mayor is going to make us try,” he said.

Without enhancements, the sheriff’s office budget in its current state would go up $17 million.

Most of that is eaten up by a $9.3 million increase in pension costs, $2.5 million more for heart and hypertension-related workers’ compensation needs and $1.3 million more for needed overtime.

And while costs continue to rise, most revenue declines. One possible bright spot is red-light camera revenue, which is projected to jump almost $696,000 year-over year.

Williams said that’s caused from driver behavior — more people are running red lights. This year’s initial projection was only set to be $150,000.

The sheriff’s office isn’t the only public safety area asking for more. On Friday, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department outlined its $19.4 million in enhancements to the budget committee.

That includes an additional 47 firefighters ($5.4 million), 44 engineers ($6.5 million) and a host of other employee and capital improvements.

Like the sheriff’s office, no promises were made.

Even the priorities this year will have a hard time being met.

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