Jacksonville City Council begin budget talks, focus on public safety

The Jacksonville City Council began debating how your tax dollars are going to be spent. On Thursday, they took up two top priorities, the fire department and the sheriff’s office. Each department is asking for more financial help, and it looks like they’re going to get it.

Nearly $2 billion will be divided up among city departments and agencies. The city is looking to spend nearly $450 million for fire and rescue protection. With new fire stations being built and others opening, there are 132 new positions, and those people have to be paid.

Jacksonville Fire Chief, Keith Powers, told News4JAX that he’s getting what he wanted. “The mayor and her staff funded exactly what we needed to keep this community safe. We have to look forward, project forward in our budgets, we’ve projected forward in the CIP (capital improvement plan) you’ll see some stations that are projected out to deal with the growth that’s going to be occurring on the Westside in the very near future. So we have everything we need to keep this community safe. And, we’ll just continue every year to provide for that going forward,” Powers said.

RELATED: Mayor Donna Deegan presents $1.7B budget to City Council | Jacksonville City Council to discuss $1.7 billion budget, choose top priorities Tuesday

Sheriff T.K. Waters told the council what he needed and took questions from them Thursday.   In JSO’s nearly $600 million budget, it looks like the sheriff will get 40 new officers. And the money to pay for 40 others whose federal funding is running out this year.  We asked him about the number of officers who are retiring.

“We’re doing really well, the attrition rate has dropped significantly for a month. And I think that’s just because of the way we’re moving forward. Things are happening,” Sheriff Waters said.

That includes talks to move the jail. “I think as we move forward, we’re going to ask for our jail, the building itself, to move. It’s outlived it usefulness,” Sheriff Waters said. Council President Ron Salem has made that a goal and has appointed a special committee to look into it.

A couple of other items in the budget talks, questions about funding for Mayor Deegan’s special projects. What will happen with the request for her transition teams and funding for programs like the return of Jacksonville Journey? Those are still being debated.

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