Council delays approval of city budget
Approval of the 2016-17 budget was delayed Tuesday night by the Lincoln City Council to allow city staff more time to research the cost of adding police officers.
Lincoln Mayor Spencer Short requested additional officers during council deliberations. The proposed city budget included a new lieutenant for the police department, requested by Lincoln Police Chief Rex Marks, but not additional patrol officers.
“We’re constantly asking city staff to do more with less,” Short said. “I suggest we do something out of the box and add police officers. I would like to see us add a minimum of two officers, with or without the lieutenant position.”
“I can’t support the lieutenant position without additional officers on the street,” Short added.
Short said the city had $9 million in reserves, of which $4 million could not be touched, and some of the money should be used to augment the police department.
“The business of the city is providing service,” Short said. “We need to pay more attention to staffing the organization. I would like to move forward with the aspirational goal of adding staffing.”
City Manager Matt Brower said adding two additional police officers would cost at least $245,000 annually.
City Councilman Peter Gilbert said he approved of the concept but needed to see the hard numbers before he could vote for adding police officers.
“The budget before us came from staff,” Gilbert said. “I would like to give due respect to the department heads and the city manager. The budget does not go into effect until July 1.”
City Councilman Paul Joiner said he wanted to make sure there would be revenue to fund new officers for the duration of their careers, not just for a year.
City Councilman Stan Nader said he has always been cautious about spending money but seemed to support adding officers.
“At some point, we have to invest in our people,” Nader said. “The police department is understaffed.”
City Councilman Gabriel Hydrick said he is reluctant to hire new officers when the police department could use a new station.
“The police department is living in a facility that is embarrassing,” Hydrick said. “It’s probably hazardous, especially being next to the railroad tracks.”
Adding two officers received support from the public.
Lincoln resident John Taylor said he would feel better if the council approved the addition of two police officers and Lincoln Police Officer Steve Krueger also approved of the proposal.
“The Lincoln Peace Officers Association (LPOA) agrees a new lieutenant would benefit the department but now is not the time. We need more officers,” Krueger said. “We are top-heavy in the supervisor to officer ratio.”
The Lincoln City Council meets again at 6 p.m. June 28.