Mayor Mark Holland called for further cuts in public safety overtime during a budget workshop Monday evening at City Hall.
Holland said $1 million in cuts in the overtime budgets for the Kansas City, Kan., Police and Fire departments were a step in the right direction, and he proposed that the Police, Fire and Sheriff’s departments each find another half-million in cuts.
“We had about $5 million in public safety (overtime) last year and if we saved $1 million we’re about 20 percent down,” Holland said.
It is important to figure out how to make it sustainable over time, he said. Staffing has been reduced 20 percent in all other departments, but has been increased 10 percent in public safety, he said.
“I think the biggest threat to our public safety is our running out of resources to properly fund them,” Holland said. “My concern is that with the budget we have presented, we have another time of decreasing fund balance, and I’m very concerned about our losing our bond rating. I think the cost of losing our bond rating exceeds the cost of making some changes this year to show that fund balance going up.”
“If we asked police and fire to take a $500,000 cut in 2015, from what the administrator has recommended, and drop that million dollars down to the city general fund, it would represent a 1 percent cut in their operations for the 2015 year,” he said. He believes these departments could make a 1 percent cut, adding they still have that much in overtime. He said he didn’t want to spend any of the money but drop it all to the bottom line. If they and the Sheriff’s Department could make $500,000 in cuts, it would increase the fund balance by $1.5 million, he said.
As an example, he mentioned the Fire Department has a full recruit class and can drive the overtime rate down. He believes there are additional efficiencies the police can find, and have found some efficiencies already.
“When you have $50 million budgets, I think there’s an opportunity to find more efficiencies,” he said.
He said the UG’s chief financial officer, Lew Levin, has made a compelling case that losing the bond rating and paying higher interest rates will be more costly over time to the city than making some minor budget changes.
Holland said the Sheriff’s Department highest overtime was from court transport, out of county transport and patrol. In 2013 overtime in the operations division of the Sheriff’s Department exceeded $600,000. He said there needs to be a conversation with the district attorney’s office on doing more video arraignments. Also, the UG needs to make sure there is no duplication of services in road patrol.
Holland said that if the largest departments couldn’t do a one or two percent cut, there were other problems. “We need to be aggressive about it,” he said.
Commissioner Angela Markley asked if some funding could be found in the budget for more equipment for these departments. Holland said the cost of equipment would go up in the future if the bond rating is lowered.
Commissioners Hal Walker said there were certain areas that they would not want to see cut.
Administrator Doug Bach was asked to come up with some budget changes that would make some additional cuts from these departments and come back to the commission for discussion and approval.
In other action, the commission cut the community survey for the 2015 budget year, an expected expense of about $45,000. Commissioners talked about bringing it back a year later.