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Mike Kanin is the Publisher of the Austin Monitor. As such, he doesn't report on much--aside from the workings of the Monitor--any more. In his previous life as a freelance journalist, Kanin has written for the Washington City Paper, the Washington Post's Express, the Boston Herald, Boston's Weekly Dig, the Austin Chronicle, and the Texas Observer.
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Commission hears emergency departments’ budget ‘wish lists’
The Public Safety Commission took its turn on the budget merry-go-round Monday when it received initial requests from all three of the city’s emergency services departments. The police offered up a wish list that amounted to $13 million in hoped for increases,
All of the figures represent an increase over last year’s allotments. They are also just the first step in what will be a long process that leads up to final Council approval.
Assistant City Manager Mike McDonald told In Fact Daily that what the commission saw “is just (the departments’) wish list.” He added that “none of it has been approved and not all of it will be taken forward.”
Assistant Police Chief David Carter echoed that sentiment before the commission. “This is basically a forecast looking at the current budget basically maintaining the services we’re providing now going forward,” he said. “As (Assistant Fire) Chief (Harry) Evans says, we’re in the sausage-making stage of a budget issue.”
Carter proceeded to run down his list, starting with what he called a “base budget,” which he projected to be about $254 million. He said 94 percent of the funds would go toward staff salaries and benefits. If approved as-is, Carter’s version of the spending outlook would bring 13 additional officers and 10 more support staff into the fold.
He noted that the 13 extra uniforms “comes from a staffing formula by city ordinance,” which stipulates that APD maintain an officer-to-population ratio of 2.0 per 1,000. Commission Vice Chair Michael Levy took issue with this number, suggesting that a consolidation of police forces, which brought 35 Marshalls, Airport Police, and Parks officers under the APD also lowered that figure.
“This brings us down from about 2.0, apples to apples, to about 1.6, 1.7?” Levy asked.
Carter said that he hadn’t had a chance to look at the figure yet.
APD will also have to account for a promised 3 percent raise that came after officers agreed to forgo their scheduled 2010 raises. McDonald confirmed to In Fact Daily that these would be in this year’s budget.
Carter also mentioned the potential of the city bringing on 50 additional full-time officers through a federal stimulus grant program. The program, through the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, would provide funding for those positions for three years. Carter told In Fact Daily that the department already had another grant in hand that could cover the costs of equipment for those officers.
As for what might happen after the federal funds ran out, Carter noted that, as the city grew, those officers would likely be needed anyway. “At some point we’re betting on an (economic) recovery, and we’re also betting on the fact that this area is not going to slow down,” he said. “We’re going to need the cops at some point, so at some point you have to grow staffing. Why not go on and get a hold of those guys now?” he suggested.
In his presentation, EMS Assistant Director James Shamard told commissioners that his service would like to bring 24/7 staffing to the Avery Ranch station, which is scheduled to be completed in July. He also looked for pay raises, and increased fleet and maintenance costs.
Of Evans’ $7 million, $5 million came in personnel costs. This accounted for salary and health care increases, as well as five more firefighters.
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