The City Council passed a balanced budget for 2015, which totals about $577 million to fund Wichita’s police, fire, parks, utilities and other services.
“This is pretty much a status quo budget, which for us is significant because we’ve been in cutback mode for five years,” said City Manager Robert Layton.
But the budget wasn’t passed easily. The first vote at Tuesday’s meeting failed over contention about 10 grant-funded police positions whose grant had run out, which totaled about $750,000.
Council members Jeff Blubaugh and Lavonta Williams and Mayor Carl Brewer initially voted against passing the budget.
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“I did not feel it was the right thing to do to go forward with the budget that we were cutting police officers even though we were losing those federal funds,” Blubaugh said. “I feel like we should find the money somewhere. It was a sticking point and not just for me.”
After an executive session, Layton told the council that they could review the positions before the budget takes effect.
“We will probably have a pretty comprehensive review of our service levels for police and better determine what community expectations are and then we will look at alternative strategies,” Layton said.
Police Chief Norman Williams said the city currently has 425 authorized field officers, but there are only about 385 positions filled, mostly because of retirements. The 425 positions include the 10 grant –funded positions.
The city has a recruitment class of about 23 prospective officers who are expected to graduate in November and another recruitment class that will begin in January.
“Any time you have a city that has a growing population that adds to your responsibilities for public safety,” Williams said. “If you look at the budget numbers we have authorized, it’s allowed us to provide appropriate services to the community thus far.”