Lincoln, Neb. The Beutler Administration and the Lincoln City Council today announced they have reached a compromise on the City’s 2014-16 budget that will add two police officers over the biennium and maintain funding for new positions in the Parks and Recreation Department.
The Lincoln Police Department (LPD) will add one officer in 2014-15 and a second one in 2015-16 using savings from LPD’s current and past budgets.
The additional officers are a result of a compromise negotiated by Roy Christensen, who advocated that new officers be added to the budget, and his fellow Council members Leirion Gaylor Baird and Carl Eskridge. The entire Council has endorsed the compromise, and members are expected to approve the officers Monday, July 28 when they vote on initial budget changes.
"The council has worked together as a team to try and get things done for Lincoln," Baird said, "for the city we serve, and to support the growth of our community.
"That growth requires both excellent parks and an excellent police force."
Mayor Chris Beutler praised the compromise. “When people have different ideas about what to fund in the City budget, the discussion can go two ways,” Beutler said in a statement. “It can be a divisive exercise that pits segments of the community against each other. Or elected officials can be true leaders, listen to each other and work it out. A major reason this community is succeeding in so many areas is that we prefer the latter approach. I want to thank the members of the City Council for working with the Administration to find a compromise that is in the best interests of our City.”
Public Safety Director Tom Casady said LPD has accumulated enough re-appropriated funds to cover the estimated $170,000 cost of the additional officers for two years.
“By carefully managing our dollars, the Department often comes in under budget,” Casady said. “For many years the department has used these ‘left-over’ funds to pay for capital equipment needs, to fund a new firing range and associated facilities and to cover retirement payouts. We’ve been able to do that without asking Mayors, City Councils or the taxpayers to allocate additional dollars to the Police budget for these needs.” Casady said the positions would have to be funded through the General Fund in the 2016-18 budget and beyond.
Lincoln Police Chief Jim Peschong said these additional officers will improve officer response times in the city.
Peschong also briefly spoke about the potential for a new joint police and rescue worker station in southeast Lincoln. Peschong said, right now, response times for this part of the city could be improved, and this joint station will work towards accomplishing that goal.
"It would put those officers that work in the southeast quadrant of the city much closer to the area they respond to call for service," Peschong said.
"And, they would be responding from police headquarters."
LPD has applied for a federal grant to add two police officers to devote more resources to fighting gang-related crimes. The grant from the Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS) would pay 75 percent of the salary cost up to $125,000 per officer over the three-year period. If the grant is approved and the compromise adopted, LPD would be able to add four new officers over the next two years.
The public hearing on the budget is scheduled from 2:30 to 6 p.m. and 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Monday, August 11. The Council votes on final changes to the budget August 13 and adopts the budget August 25. The new fiscal year begins September 1. The budget is available at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: proposed budget).