Proposed City Budget Has Increased Funding For Police, Firefighters, Roadways
The pandemic caused shortfalls in the city budget that officials say could have resulted in "drastic cuts" to basic services and employee workforce. Federal funding from the American Rescue Plan, however, is a one-time allocation that will keep the budget stable. City officials released a proposed city budget Tuesday afternoon that they say focuses on fiscal stability. If passed, the budget would increase from $416 million to $461 million.
It prioritizes funding for public safety issues, roadways, 30 community council funding requests and human services.
The new fiscal year starts July 1, meaning City Council has until June 30 to approve a budget.
Here's a breakdown of some of the major points in the budget:
Increase Funding For Police, Fire Departments
Proposed funding for public safety services has increased from $272.8 million last fiscal year to $300.8 million.
That includes money for salary increases, as well as two new classes of firefighters and police officers after economic hold ups due to the pandemic delayed a planned recruiting class in 2021.
The money would also pay for a Gun Crimes Intelligence Center after the city saw historical levels of deadly gun violence in 2021. It will also fund more crime analysts on the body worn camera team.
Funding would also be allocated to the emergency communications center for more training and upgrades that include recording calls and screen captures.
It does not include funding for a new District 5 police headquarters station, which some council members advocated for earlier this year.
The city proposed to exceed its goal of providing 1.4% of the general fund to human services, instead allocating $8 million to human services.
During a round table Tuesday, officials said the increase was planned because of the many people still in need of pandemic-related assistance from the city's partner agencies.
The money would also fund a new Office of Human Services, which will be under the city manager. The office will be in charge of managing human services contacts throughout the city. It will also be a "touchpoint" for human services agencies in the city.
Roads, Pedestrian Safety
Road maintenance and pedestrian safety would get $16.2 million in funding from the new proposed budget. Officials said the money would go toward paving 44 lane miles and do preventative maintenance on 47 miles of roadway. The money also includes $750,000 for pedestrian safety initiatives and $400,000 for "street calming projects," like road humps.
The city owns the streetcar, so it has to fund it. But exactly what that looks like is unclear for now.
The streetcar receives roughly $1.5 million annually from parking meters, $600,000 from parking citations, $900,000 in other funding, roughly $600,000 from the voluntary tax incentive contribution agreement, and grants.
The grants portion of the funding is still being worked on and, if there is a hole in funding for the streetcar, some general funds might be used to pay for it. Officials say funding for the streetcar is regularly presented separately from the entirety of the budget and may be available within the next week or so.
Water Rate Increases
The city is proposing a 3.75% increase to the water rate in 2022 and a 5.55% increase every year for the next four years. Officials said they're trying to ease the rate up as opposed to increasing it by 20% in a single year.
The increased funding goes toward replacing 1% of the city's main lines annually and replacing lead pipes near people's homes.
Opportunity For Public Comment
Public hearings on the budget will take place in person at council chambers and via Zoom at 5 p.m. on June 3, 8 and 9.