But before Brown moves forward on that, the city is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars settling up with former employees who accrued leave time they didn't use - and are entitled to sell it back.
During the changeover from former Mayor John Peyton to Brown's administration, the city has faced more than $433,000 in bills to buy unused leave time from departing mayoral appointees, city records show.
The total cost will be higher, because a few people that Brown dismissed Sept. 28 have been waiting for final checks that will include their leave sales.
Final payout records for 31 appointees, obtained by the Times-Union through public records requests, showed their leave payments averaged $13,976.
But the largest topped $50,000.
And that raises flags to people who want lower government costs.
"I don't see how they deserve any of it, personally," said Tony Bates, a longtime leader in Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County, who noted many businesses just don't pay workers for unused leave.
Bates said people hired by a mayor should be ready to move on when administrations change, and can use their time off before then or lose it.
"They know the circumstance and they've known for years," Bates said. "... They've had years to really prepare for their future."
The recession makes this a bad season to argue with critics, said Kerri Stewart, who received $51,495 after serving as chief administrative officer under Peyton and Brown.
"I don't know there's anything I could say that would make anyone think it's fair, given the current economic situation," she said. But Stewart said she had no reason to feel bad about taking the money.
"I know I didn't take advantage of anybody or any leave plan. I am a taxpayer, too," she said.
Stewart said her job required long hours most of the time, and doing the $166,000-a-year job left her with piles of unused leave, compensatory time and time owed from emergency situations like tropical storms. City rules capped how much of that leave she could sell back, she said, and the rest went to waste.
Starting city employees can earn 20 days of leave yearly - for vacations, sick time or any purpose. City rules for most workers, other than police and firefighters, cap the amount of leave they can hold at somewhere between seven and 12 weeks, depending on their years with the city.
Bates said he doesn't fault appointees for selling back their time but thinks the City Council should be pushing to control the benefits in top jobs.
Don't bet on that happening, said Councilman Richard Clark, who chairs the Finance Committee and demanded cuts in agency spending during budget hearings this year.
"I'm comfortable with it and I don't foresee us changing it," Cark said of the leave sales policy. "... Not only is it reasonable, but it's done in far more, many more, places than the city of Jacksonville."
Clark said the amounts the city paid to the appointees leaving sounded "about right," and that the city needs to offer reasonable benefits when it's hiring qualified administrators. He pointed out appointees aren't receiving severance pay and said he would feel differently about that.
Brown said last week he isn't particularly focused on details of employee benefits if the final deal makes sense for taxpayers.
"You've got to get what's best for the public," he said. "There are so many different compensation and benefits packages."
Peyton curbed leave sales near the end of his term by telling appointees he wouldn't sign waivers that would let them nominally stay on the city's books and run out their leave. A few longtime employees are still enrolled in an earlier leave package that allowed it.
Stewart said she doesn't think top appointees cared that much what the leave rules and other benefits with their jobs were.
She said most were focused more on the appeal of having jobs that made an impact on the city - and that held true when Brown hired his own people to fill some top spots.
"They negotiated their salary after they accepted the job," she said.
Read more at Jacksonville.com: http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2011-10-27/story/appointees-cut-...