JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The city budget had a $1.6 million dollar shortfall as of Thursday morning, and the City Council finance committee met most of the day to try and fill the hole.
Among other things, the finance committee voted to cut the Police and Fire Pension Fund budget by $650,000. Executive Director John Keane appeared before the committee. Keane and the board contend the city has no authority to cut their budget, but city attorney Cindy Laquidera disagrees.
"This issue continues to come up," said council member Stephen Joost. "Let us force the issue. We need to know. We need to take action and reduce expenses."
Joost proposed the cut and it was passed by the committee. Council members expressed disappointment in salary hikes at the Fund office, and questioned Keane on a report that the pension fund office traded a one-and-half-year-old car with 25,000 miles on it for a new one that cost the board $19,000.
Keane said he is provided a car by contract. They trade cars about every two years, and this one had mechanical problems. He told First Coast News there are bigger issues.
"They are trying to distract people's attention from the fact that the city owes over a billion dollars in pension contributions," said Keane. "We can talk about a $19,000 automobile while the city is in a 12-foot ditch, owing us tons and tons of money. But that's all right, we are going to get to it sooner or later."
Keane said as for the city cutting his budget, it will end up in court and "we'll see what a judge said."
Meanwhile, Sheriff John Rutherford told the committee he found money to pay $700,000 for police overtime for traffic control at special events. He said he found $702,000 in a domestic violence trust fund, paid for by people convicted of domestic violence crimes.
"That money can be used for incarceration costs so I can use the money to pay for corrections officers' salaries, and use the savings there to pay for the overtime."
The Council finance committee also voted to save $62,000 this year by moving traffic court on Beach Blvd to the new courthouse. That will also save more than $796,000 for the next fiscal year in 2013/2014. The council also saved $59,000 by cutting the health department security budget.
The council wants to finalize the budget by Friday in order to advertise the final budget before public hearings are held. The new budget will take effect on October 1.
First Coast News