Thursday, August 2, 2018

Incorporation Question: Police Part 1: Budget

I reviewed the NEMAC Pro-forma budget. I harped on the line item for policing services because it came out to over half the budget. Combine that with what I pointed out as number 4 in my first analysis of the resolution, which explains that the area already pays a special tax for special services.
In this post I review the police budgets provided by county staff, used by the NEMAC in estimating their police service number of $4.86M and how much that number grew in a year.

From the top they specify many things about what this budget represents:

  • Personnel costs. Including what I assume are the leasing costs of 30 vehicles. 
    With 6-10 on duty at a time for what does this new city need 24 marked vehicles?
  • Recommended. From my understanding a county police representative recommended these numbers.
  • Minimum staffing. This represents what the county perceives as the low end of the acceptable options, presumable all others costing much more.
With this in mind I admit an intuition that the county police will demand at least $4.86M from the new city, and will demand we accept their terms. I wonder if the inclusion of this budget in the resolution somehow contractually obligates the new city to accept these terms, or if representatives of the new city would have the power to scrutinize and negotiate the terms of the three year minimum contract.
No one ever negotiated the budget as it exists now, the numbers came from the NEMAC reviewing and approving information given them by county staff, as in this particular instance. As I learn more about the internal workings of the NEMAC process I can refine and correct this understanding.

I don't have much to say about the numbers of the budget, other than to comment on and point out the extremely archetypal process of envisioning and implementing policing in a new area.
Based on conversations with my neighbors it seems the current level of policing represents a fraction of this proposal. Given the remarkable, almost overwhelming increase in police presence this represents I hope a future city manager and council would analyze with great skepticism the proposal made by the county police department and demand options presented with expected returns, as well as other proposals with lower and higher levels of service for comparison. Most importantly the charter committee must audit current police services AND expenses. Only fools would accept the first offer and not demand as much as possible for their neighbors.
For a ever-growing line item already more than half the budget the new city must tread with extreme caution and fidelity to the residents, and not accepting on-face what the county offers.

Which brings me to the final part of this post: the NEW police personnel costs estimate for 2017/18. A member of the Sky Lake & Highland Lakes Area Homeowners Association (the HOA from now on) provided me with an updated budget.

From one year to the next personnel costs increased over $400,000. That's over 8% increase in one year! Truly concerning given the often repeated argument that taxes need not go up.

That pill gets harder to swallow.

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