Mayor Chris Beutler today said the proposed Police Department budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year includes a delay in hiring new classes of graduates from the police academy and the privatization of downtown parking enforcement. The Mayor said the delay in hiring will save about $375,000. The parking changes will save about $300,000 in employee costs in the Police Department. The parking personnel savings and another $160,000 in parking related expenses will be shifted from tax funds to the parking fund.
"The bottom line for residents is that these changes do not impact public safety, the number one priority of this community," Beutler said. "The changes save money for important quality of life services and help Lincoln remain a safe and inviting place to live, work and raise a family."
In his first three budgets, Mayor Beutler has cut nearly 140 full-time equivalent positions. Those cuts have been focused outside of police, fire and 911 services, which consume more than half of the City's tax-funded budget.
"Through reorganization, cooperative agreements with providers, the use of technology and some real ingenuity from our City employees, we have been able to minimize the impact of those cuts on the public," Beutler said. "But it has not been easy. We have reached a point where additional cuts to non-public-safety programs will make them ineffective and cause serious service impacts. As Mayor, I will not preside over the decline of a great City."
Over the last few years, the City has been making a transition to outcome-based budgeting. Meetings with the community have helped City leaders develop outcome areas and goals as well as indicators that chart progress toward the goals. Last month, Beutler released a list of 244 City programs, divided into three tiers and prioritized based on their importance in achieving the goals. Services in tier one are more likely to be funded that those in tiers two and three.
Beutler said parking enforcement, for example, is a tier three program, one that is not as important to public safety as the tier one services provided by the Police Department. Public Service Officers who handle this function are not Police Officers and cannot issue citations for other non-vehicle violations.
On-duty Police Officers would provide parking enforcement as part of their regular duties in areas outside of downtown. Police Chief Tom Casady said the delay in hiring new officers could be managed in a way that would not reduce the number of officers on the streets.
Beutler said two key public safety indicators - the City's violent crime and burglary rates - are very low. But another indicator - fire and ambulance response times - is beginning to increase as the City grows. For that reason, he is proposing a lesser reduction for Lincoln Fire and Rescue - about $75,000 in program cuts.
"Deep reductions could negatively impact response times," Beutler said. "Unlike the Police Department, Lincoln Fire and Rescue doesn't have lower-tier programs that could generate significant savings."
No major changes are planned in the area of 911 Emergency Communications.
The Mayor will present his proposed budget to the City Council July 12. The City's program prioritization list is available at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: taking charge).