Funding for Police and Fire Departments to be discussed at Decatur City Council Study Session
On Monday, November 23 at 5:30 PM, the Decatur City Council will be having a study session focusing on the 2021 budget. The study session will focus on most city departments including Police, Fire, and Economic & Community Development. Last week, the council held a study session focused on the Public Works Department. Below are a couple of observations regarding the 2021 budget.
PROPOSED 2021 BUDGET WOULD DECREASE END OF YEAR CASH RESERVES
The 2021 budget projects $70.75 million in revenue to the city’s General Fund and expenses of $71.55 million, resulting in a projected deficit of $800,000 in next year. Cash reserves of the city’s general fund at the beginning of 2021 are expected to be $7.8 million and would decrease to $7.0 million by the end of 2021. While I would prefer that the city balanced revenue and expenses both in 2020 and 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic is a health and economic crisis that the city has not faced before and the cash reserves were explicitly designed to be used in such emergencies.
THE NUMBER OF POLICE OFFICERS AND FIREFIGHTERS WILL NOT DECREASE IN 2021
The number of police officers budgeted in 2020 was 146. In 2021, the number of police officers budgeted will increase by 1 to 147. The number of firefighters budgeted in 2020 was 108 in 2020 and the number budgeted will remain at 108 in 2021. The proposed Police Department budget will increase from $28.2 million in 2020 to $28.6 million in 2021, while the Fire Department budget will increase from $20.8 million in 2020 to $20.9 million in 2021.
PROPOSED 2021 BUDGET SHOULD MORE EXPLICITLY ADDRESS HOW THE CITY WILL ACT TO REDUCE THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 AND KEEP CITIZENS SAFE
The 2021 budget should include the funding and personnel needed to better protect the public during the COVID-19 pandemic including informing the public of assistance available and enforcing COVID-19 safety guidelines. Unfortunately, the proposed budget falls short. As one example, at a recent meeting, the city council approved using Dove, Inc. to oversee the distribution of $834,287 in CARES grant funding to assist residents with rent/mortgage and utility assistance. Unfortunately, the city’s website does not feature this program, and thus, residents may not even know about it. Overall, the city’s information regarding COVID-19 assistance to citizens is inadequate. Furthermore, it is unclear that the 2021 budget has the funds necessary to enforce COVID-19 safety guidelines and keep citizens safe.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON THE STUDY SESSION IS AVAILABLE ONLINE
An agenda and background information to the city council meeting can be found at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council-meetings/.
CITIZENS ARE ENCOURAGED TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK TO CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS
If you would like to discuss the upcoming meeting or any other issue with a city council member, phone numbers and e-mail addresses for each council member can be found at the following link: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council/.
CITIZENS CAN ATTEND MEETINGS AND EXPRESS THEIR VIEWS
Citizens are allotted 3 minutes per person at the end of the city council study session. Meetings take place at the Theater located on the second floor of the Decatur Civic Center (1 Gary K. Anderson Place). Free parking is available in the lot immediately south of the entrance. If you attend the meeting in person, please remain at least 6 feet from other individuals who are not in your household, wash your hands frequently, and face coverings are required to be worn.