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Mayor’s office, police union say councilman is attempting to defund JSO

A proposal would give the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office its money in increments, rather than $484 million up front.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Mayor Lenny Curry's proposed city budget gives the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office nearly 40 percent of all city spending.

Demonstrators have previously said during protests they want that cut in half, giving police and firefighters the same 20 percent of the budget.

They say the money would be better spent fighting social issues that lead to crime. The city council is set to vote on approving that budget Tuesday and now one city council member is suggesting a plan to reduce JSO funding.

Councilman Garrett Dennis is proposing to leave half of JSO’s proposed budget below the line.

This is how Dennis started his zoom meeting on Monday.

“I do not believe defunding our police department is the right thing to do. My proposal is not defunding the police department,” Dennis said.

His proposal is to give JSO six months of funding starting Oct. 1.

JSO would have to come back at the end of that period and ask for 25 percent of the $234 million put aside under the proposal.

Steve Zona, president of the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5-30 says this could have large ripple effects in the department.

“A large portion of that sheriff’s budget is pay and benefits for the employees. Police officers, correctional officers, bailiffs, civilian employees, what message are you sending to them?” Zona asked.

The mayor’s office agrees.

Chief of Staff Jordan Elsbury wrote to First Coast News in a statement: 

“We stand by the budget we submitted and the work of the City Council finance committee and its chairman, Matt Carlucci. Make no mistake, this is an attempt to defund men and women in uniform. If this comes to fruition, Mayor Curry would be forced to strongly consider vetoing the 2021 budget."

Dennis claimed in Monday’s meeting a similar proposal was approved in 2017.

Zona says that money — allocated for hiring new officers at the time — was put below the line, not 50 percent of the budget.

Meredith Corey-Disch called into Monday’s meeting saying she had questions about Dennis’s proposal.

“I’m just not hearing more concrete things. When we’re talking about transparency and accountability, I know those are the words we’re looking for but I want to hear concrete things as to how we enact those,” Corey-Disch said.

We reached out to the sheriff for a comment but did not hear from him.

Many people in Jacksonville have asked for what’s being referred to as a people’s budget, with more money set aside for projects designed to serve communities.

The full city council will be voting on the budget at Tuesday’s meeting.

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