Mayor Chris Beutler announced today that his proposed budget for 2016-2018 includes funding for four new police officers and two added last year, six new firefighters and a new ambulance. Beutler outlined his budget priorities in the second of three presentations and will present the budget to the City Council Monday, July 11.
Since taking office in 2007, the Beutler Administration has added five firefighters and seven police officers, increasing the Lincoln Police Department (LPD) force by 2.2 percent and Lincoln Fire and Rescue (LFR) staff by 1.8 percent. But during that period, the City expanded over 8.7 square miles, a 10-percent increase, and Lincoln's population grew by more than 32,000, a 13-percent increase.
"New police officers and firefighter paramedics will improve response times, help cover a growing City, relieve the workload on our stressed medic units, provide critically needed back up, and improve safety for our first responders," Beutler said. "Adding these staff will help ensure that we do not slip backwards as the City continues to grow."
While police calls for service have declined, the Mayor said City growth stretches LPD resources and makes it more difficult to provide back-up for other officers in high-risk situations. In addition to four new officers, the budget includes funding for two officers who were added last year without identifying a funding source. LFR responded to more than 19,000 times medical calls in 2015, a 7.1-percent increase over 2014 and a 22.9-percent increase since 2010.
"LPD and LFR have to manage new responsibilities with more area to cover and more people to serve," Beutler said. "Their work has also become more challenging, with greater levels of public scrutiny, the introduction of new medical practices, growing expectations surrounding evidence collection and processing, and the introduction of technology that, though incredibly valuable, increases the level of complexity of the work."
Beutler said making public safety a priority in his budget reflects public opinion. "Time and again, the public has told us that public safety is their highest priority," he said. "Our annual Taking Charge budget survey reflects that prioritization. Citizens consistently tell us that a quick, effective emergency response is City Hall's most important duty."
Beutler said his proposed budget also includes funding for services that contribute to a safe and secure community - neighborhood swimming pools, library hours, the Pioneers Park Nature Center, health information and referral and in-home services for seniors. He said other programs that contribute to residents' safety and health include Community Learning Centers, the Stronger Safer Neighborhoods initiative, the graffiti prevention program, Aging Partners support services and the Health Department's preventative health services.
"Lincoln must continue to strive to be a complete community," Beutler said. "A strong community policing concept combined with the services that create a high quality of life is an unbeatable combination for keep Lincoln safe and secure."