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City of Jacksonville budget cut proposals would slash services such as Animal Care

6:55 PM, Jul 3, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The city faces a possible $64 million budget shortfall and proposed cuts to deal with the issue will have huge impact on services in the city.

Among those hard hit would be the city's Animal Care and Protective Services division and the Sexual Assault Response Center.

If the 14 percent in cuts go through, Animal Care and Protective Services plans to no longer man the intake counter, will no longer taking in owner surrenders and over the counter drop-offs. That is 2,000 animals a year.

The on-site veterinarian position would be cut, as well as four animal control positions. Mary Vincent came by the shelter to reclaim her dog Mitzy, found and rescued by animal control officers.

"Oh my goodness, that would be a horrible thing, to have to cut those helpers," said Vincent, who was appreciative of the help city workers provided to save her pet.

Under the proposals, animals would only be held 14 days at the shelter and the cuts would result in 2,000 more animals being euthanized.

"That would be terrible, people's pets, I don't like the euthanization of animals, that is a terrible thing," said Vincent

"We have hit the wall here, we are doing all we can to help the city, said Denise Deisler, executive director of the Jacksonville Humane Society.

The nonprofit works closely with the city, taking in many animals from the city shelter. They have taken in more and more animals due to city budget cuts the last two years.

The Humane Society and First Coast No More Homeless Pets have been scrambling to raise more money the last two years to make up for city budget cuts and take in more animals, but Deisler said they simply can't handle that anymore. 

"Animal Care and Protective Services in Jacksonville two years running has been named the best in the state of Florida, and that the reaction to that success is to cut their budget, just boggles my mind," said Deisler. "The city should be giving more money to animal control. The city provides $3 per resident to animal care and control, the state average is $6 per resident. We are not asking for anything extraordinary."

The budget proposals also would put an end to the Sexual Assault Response Center on West Tenth Street near UF Health at Jacksonville, formerly known as Shands.

When a sexual assault victim arrives at the Sexual Assault Response Center inside the victims services center, they receive medical attention from a doctor and a forensic exam. The center collects evidence and provides crisis intervention and immediate counseling.

It is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week service to the community. More than 250 women get help here each year, and also a few men. Under the proposed budget cuts at this time, the center would be discontinued, saving the city $325,000.

"We value the center and know it is a very valuable asset to our community like a lot of other services the city does," said David DeCamp, the city's Director of Communications. "But we have to take into account the money we have, the revenue we have, and bills we have to pay."

Morgan Moeller of the Women's Center of Jacksonville's Rape Recovery Team said in a statement that the women's center is confident that the community will continue to work together to ensure that that is no disruption in services to survivors of sexual assault.
    
DeCamp said the city has to make up a $64 million shortfall if pension reform is not passed, and that Mayor Alvin Brown does not want to raise taxes.
    
DeCamp said this goes beyond being more efficient, it unfortunately means service reductions in city government.

Other possible cuts include reducing the amount of library branches in the city, going from 31 to 16 swimming pools in the summer and closing three fire stations.
    
The mayor is looking at all these proposed cuts turned in by the various divisions and will propose a budget to the city council on July 15th.

Want to weigh in on the Mayor's proposed budget? Here's how:

Mayor Alvin Brown

MayorBrown@Coj.net

Bill Gulliford, City Council President

Gulliford@coj.net

Clay Yarborough, City Council Vice President

Clay@coj.net

Greg Anderson, City Council Finance Committee Chair

GAnderson@coj.net

First Coast News

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