Four more police officers to lose their jobs

City manager says that’s to balance city budget
By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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Four police officers will receive layoff notices as a result of the $2 million deficit in the city’s General Fund budget. “Our budget, to balance the General Fund, would include losing four officers,” City Manager Jim Estep said Monday. “There’s not enough revenue to support them, even with concessions they make with salary and benefits.” According to police Lt. Paul Shelgren, there are currently 31 sworn officers. Estep said the layoffs are “tentative until council takes action on all labor group contracts,” including the layoffs. One seargent and three patrol officers would be laid off, according to Estep on Tuesday night. Residents The News Messenger talked to in downtown Lincoln Tuesday morning were upset with the idea of losing four officers. “Layoffs should be proportional to the budget deficit. The police department should not reduce its budget no more than the percentage of the shortfall,” Frank Pulino said. “If Lincoln has a low crime rate, we want to keep it that way. Once they reduce officers, and if the crime rate starts to go up, it could take awhile to reduce it.” While Pulino will not be able to attend the June 22 City Council 6 p.m. meeting, where the budget will be presented and most likely approved, his friend Rowan Carlson may be there. “It’s possible, just to hear what they’ll say. It would be good to hear about the budget,” Carlson said. “Other departments should do their share to help cut the budget.” Jennifer Freymond and Dana Silvas-Files, eating lunch downtown, both said they didn’t want to lose four officers. “I’d hate to see police go, especially with summertime coming,” Freymond said. This is because “more people will be out and about, especially at night and on weekends,” according to Freymond. “I think safety should be the first concern,” Silvas-Files said. “I think the city needs to be safe and there are a lot of people here due to growth. I don’t think it’s a good thing to be letting go of police officers with so many people.” After hearing about the proposed layoffs of four officers, both said they’re interested in the June 22 City Council meeting. Freymond said she’d like to see “what other items are cut” as would Silvas-Files. “I think law enforcement would be a last resort,” Silvas-Files said. The police department is not the only area facing layoffs. “There will be other positions, but not necessarily in the General Fund, but in the Development Services Fund because there’s no revenue coming in,” Estep said. Some employees in development services will receive layoffs because of the city’s lack of development, according to Estep. He said “reduction in staff” will mean a change in management structure “to support reduced staffing.” “We’ll look to consolidate job duties,” Estep said. As far as the budget process goes, Estep and Assistant City Manager Anna Jatczak told The News Messenger Monday morning they are currently in the process of putting a budget document together so it can be printed and available for City Council members to study. “It’s close to being ready. We need to get it assembled into a format,” Estep said. “We have the numbers, we need to get them into a format so they are understandable and ready for the budget hearing.” That includes using information gathered during the city’s four public budget workshops held in April and May, according to Estep. “We will be presenting a balanced budget for 2010-2011, including a number of recommendations council will need to approve,” Jatczak said. “If the council approves all of our recommendations, we will have a balanced budget.” Those recommendations include reduced hours at the Twelve Bridges Library and Carnegie Library so the latter isn’t closed, and service reductions for parks and recreation, according to Jatczak. Know and Go: The proposed budget for the new fiscal year will be presented at the June 22 City Council meeting. The meeting is at 6 p.m. at McBean Park Pavilion.