Broward sheriff’s proposed budget would surpass $1 billion; county to consider request

The Broward Sheriff’s Office is proposing more than $1 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, a much larger figure than last year’s budget. And some county commissioners, who will ultimately vote on the matter, already say it’s unlikely that much would be approved.

For the budget, the Sheriff’s Office is citing the need for projects such as new helicopters, jail improvements and a better workspace for deputies assigned to the airport.

Although constitutional officers — the property appraiser, public defender, state attorney and clerk of court — submit budgets for approval, “the largest and, to many, the most important submission comes from the Broward Sheriff’s Office,” Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said Monday in a written statement provided to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

He said Broward’s projected growth means “the need for better tools and increased personnel to provide public safety services.”

Broward County administration said Tony’s budget, with two requested increases, totals $1.3 billion; Tony’s proposed 335-page budget on the county’s website shows a total of $1.53 billion.

The Broward County Commission will discuss the Sheriff’s Office’s budget request during a budget workshop Thursday, in advance of setting next year’s fiscal budget, which will go into effect Oct. 1.

The sheriff’s statement said the Sheriff’s Office’s requests include the following.

More deputies

The Sheriff’s Office wants an additional 242 full-time positions in everything from the county’s fire-rescue department to 911 services and Department of Detention, wage increase for detention deputies assigned to the county jails, which he said is needed for retention and recruitment.

Helicopter support

New helicopters to “replace and enhance the fleet.”

The Broward Sheriff’s Office cited last year’s tragic accident of a Sheriff’s air rescue helicopter that broke apart in the sky, killing one battalion chief and a resident on the ground.

County records show the department is requesting $9.6 million for down payments on an additional four helicopters. Last year, officials decided to set aside $15 million for new helicopters.

911 services

According to Sheriff’s Office memo sent to the county, “reasonable and necessary capital improvement projects” would include the construction, repair, or capital improvement of jail facilities, an $86.5 million consolidated 911 answering center that would be part of the Public Safety Complex, and a $5.5 million “suitable workspace” for the deputies assigned to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

“Without adequate and effective public safety services, a community cannot thrive,” Tony said in his written statement to the Sun Sentinel.

Several county commissioners said they couldn’t make the math work without cutting services dramatically or raising taxes.

County Commissioner Steve Geller said the sheriff “wants us to raises all of the taxes while he spends all of the money. Not going to happen. Period.”

Even without the requested increase, the budget for the Sheriff’s Office — which patrols the airport, seaport and contracts with many Broward cities for law enforcement and fire-rescue services — already makes up just more than half the entire budget, Geller said.

“We would probably have to close most of our parks, most of our libraries, stop doing mental health (services), stop doing affordable housing,” Geller said. “It is a completely, completely unrealistic budget. I mean, just look at what percentage of our budget he’s asking for.”

Commissioner Michael Udine called it a “non-starter for this budget cycle.”

“Basic math says this is impossible to do,” said Commissioner Michael Udine. “There are really not words.”

Mayor Nan Rich said she was looking forward to a public discussion so both sides could listen, and get clarification on the request.

“This is a huge amount of money and my question would be, ‘Is this a one-year budget because there are many things in there that look like multi-year capital investments?’” she said. “Then we have to figure out what we can afford to do.”

Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at lhuriash@sunsentinel.com. Follow on X, formerly Twitter, @LisaHuriash

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