Budget proposal to include two new police sergeant positions

Sean C. Morgan

The proposed 2018-19 city budget will add one new police officer while creating two new sergeant positions in an effort to ensure a supervisor is working 24 hours a day.

City Manager Ray Towry told the Budget Committee during its meeting Thursday evening that his budget message was in error earlier this month when he reported that the Police Department budget would add no new personnel.

The new sergeant positions will replace two current police officer positions, and the budget proposed adding a new police officer who, if approved, would work as a detective and fill in on patrol as needed.

Currently, the department includes a police chief, two sergeants, 10 patrol officers, a detective and a school resource officer, with the cost shared between the city and School District. Under the proposed budget, the department would have eight patrol officers, four sergeants, two detectives, a police chief and a school resource officer.

The committee debated how the budget would fund the changes. City staff proposed moving three-quarters of the police chief’s cost to the General Fund from the Police Levy, which must be renewed periodically. The proposed budget also moved 40 percent of the community services officer, a civilian position, to the General Fund, where the position would also serve as a communications officer to enhance the city’s public relations and social media efforts.

Committee Chairman Dave Holley said he normally wouldn’t be opposed to such an arrangement, but in a year when the new City Hall must be completed – the city bought the building in July 2016 – he believes the city should protect the General Fund.

While Towry characterized about 75 percent of the police chief’s position as administrative, with 25 percent working as a police officer on the road, Holley said the position is definitely a law enforcement position and based on city policy should remain in the police levy with police expenses.

The proosed move would partially offset the proposed staffing increase.

Holley said he supported the additional officer and his comments were specifically about how the city funds the position.

Councilor Dave Trask expressed concerns about adding the position and then possibly cutting it in a couple of years if funding ran low. Around the table, committee members said they would like to see the new officer.

“You have one sergeant for every two officers,” said Councilor Lisa Gourley. “It seems a little top- heavy.”

Towry said that the sergeants are generally out on the road with the patrol officers.

With two sergeants, the department often has two officers on without a supervisor, Towry said. Under the proposed budget, “you’ve got three people for 10,000 residents instead of two per 10,000 residents.”

Police Chief Jeff Lynn told the committee that the department has been evaluated by outside agencies in the past couple of years, and those evaluations recommended adding sergeants.

“That frees me up for different things,” Lynn said, noting that he would still fill in when a sergeant is sick or on vacation.

Committee member Dave Jurney said officers need to have a supervisor on to make decisions.

Holley said that this year he preferred not adding a position but changing two existing police officer positions to sergeant, but committee member Gerritt Schaffer said a safer community seemed more important than concerns about whether the General Fund is used to help do it.

The position has been needed for a long time, Schaffer said, and the city ought to go that direction.

“Yes, we need to bust the bad guys,” Towry said, but if the department cannot investigate, “that’s a bottleneck.”

Right now, the detective is busy and not available for follow-up investigations for many calls, Lynn told the committee. Officers handle follow-up investigation when they can. The additional detective would help.

“I think we need to do it,”

Jurney said. “The more bodies you have, the more fires you put out.”

The only question is how to fund it, Trask said.

Holley offered an alternative, and the committee voted to approve it: Move 100 percent of the community services officer to the General Fund, keep the police chief in the Police Levy Fund and add a new detective, which shifts a smaller portion of funding to the General Fund.

Based on early projections out to 2024, the decision leaves the department slightly in the red, said Finance Director Brandon Neish. The original proposal would avoid that.

The police budget will be approximately $4 million, up from $3.8 million in 2017-18. Major revenue line items include $1.2 million in its beginning fund balance with approximately $2.5 million in property taxes, an 8 percent increase based on prior years.

Total personnel costs will rise from a budgeted $1.8 million this year to $2.2 million in 2018-19.

The budget includes $13,0000 to fund an additional vehicle lease. During 2017-18, the department held off on replacing several vehicles in a bid to save resources, according to the proposed budget document. The proposed budget allows the department to return to a specified timeline for vehicle replacement.

It also sets aside up to $100,000 to replace handheld radios that are nearing the end of their useful life and will no longer be serviceable by the manufacturer, according to the proposed budget document.

The proposal budgets a $1.3 million ending fund balance, which is carried forward to the next budget year as a beginning fund balance.

Library

The proposed Library Services budget sets aside $173,000 for building improvements.

“The building is no longer meeting the needs of the community,” said Library Director Rose Peda. The electrical and media connections, as well as meeting space, are insufficient. The Library Board and the Friends of the Library, a nonprofit library support organization, have both agreed that it’s time to start a capital campaign.

Peda recalled three different people coming into the library livid that that they couldn’t find a place to plug in their electronic devices where they could sit at a table.

People want to be able to plug in, but the sitting area has just one outlet available, Peda said. Additional outlets would require cords to run across the floor.

The concrete floor makes it difficult to run conduit for more, Towry said. It also makes it more difficult to add new ADA-accessible restrooms.

He anticipates that improvements will be more expensive than those at the new City Hall, where a large crawlspace is available.

Peda said she plans to hire an architect to complete community meetings and conduct a needs assessment. With that, the library can leverage numerous available grants.

The proposed library budget is $747,000, up from $591,000 in 2017-18.

Revenue includes a beginning fund balance of $355,000, up from $240,000 and an 8-percent increase in property tax revenues, from $333,000 to $374,000.

Personnel costs increase from $140,000 to $209,000, including $30,000 each for insurance and salaries.

The budget earmarks $30,000 for books and materials, approximately the same amount as 2017-18.

The budget proposes an ending fund balance of $230,000, down from $368,000.

General Fund – Non-Departmental

The General Fund’s non-departmental budget increases from $1.4 million to about $1.7 million.

The General Fund will begin the year with $1.7 million in its beginning fund balance, down from $1.9 million in 2017-18, but other revenues increase the general fund from $3.3 million to $3.5 million.

Among them, property tax revenue is increasing from $616,000 to $654,000, while state-shared revenue increases from $200,000 to $334,000, which is partially because the state is behind on 2018 distributions. The budget shows liquor tax revenue at $165,000 in keeping with actual figures from 2016-17 but up from a budgeted $95,000 in 2017-18.

Non-departmental expenses increase from a budgeted $618,000 in 2017-18 to more than $860,000 in 2018-19.

Among the increase is the community services officer moving from the Police Levy Fund to the General Fund.

Non-departmental spending includes citywide expenses difficult to relate to a specific department, such as labor relations, which increases from $5,000 to $35,000 in 2018-19 in anticipation of labor bargaining.

The budget includes $25,000 for computer services. The line item had been zeroed out last year but was $35,000 the previous year.

It budgets an increase in street lights, from $137,000 to $195,000, closer to previous years’ actual expenses.

Senior Center spending, which includes a pass-through grant, will increase from $22,000 to $32,000 to pay a third of the cost of roofing at the Jim Riggs Community Center, which is owned by the city. The Boys and Girls Club and Senior Center are housed in the JRCC.

Overall, the budget finishes fiscal 2018-19 with an ending fund balance of $2.7 million, an increase of $42,000.

Present at the budget meeting were Bob Briana, Susan Coleman, Diane Gerson, Lisa Gourley, Dave Trask, Dave Holley, Dave Jurney, Gerritt Schaffer and Kenneth Hamlin.

Absent were Greg Mahler, James Goble and Derek Dix.

The Budget Committee is scheduled to meet again at 6 p.m. on May 30 and May 31. After reviewing the budget document, the committee may adjust and approve the budget. The budget moves to the City Council for a public hearing and adoption in June – prior to the beginning of the 2018-19 fiscal year on July 1.

The Budget Committee has two vacancies. For information about the budget or serving on the budget committee, call the city manager’s office at (541) 367-8969.

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