Public safety departments’ budgets show variability

Salaries, pensions, and health insurance make up the greatest three expenditures for the police, fire and municipal court departments, according to reports presented at the Public Safety and Veterans Subcommittee meeting on Wednesday. (Sydnee Schwartz/DD)
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The Phoenix public safety departments presented their budget results for the first half of the fiscal year of 2015-2016 at the Public Safety and Veterans Subcommittee meeting on Wednesday.

The public safety budgets represent 33.3 percent of the city budget. Salaries, pensions, and health insurance make up the greatest three expenditures for the police, fire and municipal court departments.

Police Fiscal Administrator Jill Celaya said between July and December 2015, the department spent $290.7 million, 52 percent of its fiscal budget for the year and 2 percent more than what was projected, due in part to overtime issues within the department. The police department spent 5 percent more than the previous year.

Salaries in the police department, representing $131.2 million of the police budget, are down 23.4 percent from the last fiscal year, according to Celaya.

The police department’s revenue is down more than $4 million. The loss in revenue is partially due to additional funding the department has given to the Southwest Border Anti-Money Laundering Alliance. The SWBA AML is a partnership to reduce money laundering and violence from smuggling and drug trafficking organizations, for which the department is reimbursed $132,000 annually, according to city documents.

The municipal court’s expenditures are down 4.9 percent from last fiscal year. The municipal courts have spent $13.2 million in the first half of the 2015-2016 fiscal year, which is about 40 percent of its budget, said Municipal Court Administrator Patricia Lucero.

Salaries makes up 25 percent of the department’s budget and accounts for $6.7 million of its spending through December 2015. Lucero said this expense is down from last December’s $7.1 million because of vacancies currently on the court.

Municipal Court revenue is down about 10.3 percent, with fines making up the majority of the revenue at $5.4 million, according to Lucero.

Deputy Chief Ken Leake of the Phoenix Fire Department said the department has spent 47.5 percent of its budget with $146.7 million in expenditures, up 8.6 percent from last fiscal year’s $145.4 million. Possible causes of this increase include personnel costs for public safety retirement, liability insurance, vehicle maintenance and facility maintenance. Salaries in the department are up 22.5 percent from last year.

A majority of the fire department’s revenue of $23 million through December 2015 comes from ambulance transports, accounting for $17.4 million, followed by dispatch fees and dispatch maintenance, according to Leake.

District 7 Councilman Michael Nowakowski called for updates to be delivered next meeting regarding the costs of body cameras for all police officers within the next three years, a measure being pushed by Mayor Greg Stanton and District 1 Councilwoman Thelda Williams.

The Compliance Assistance Program, which began on Jan. 25, to help residents pay fines and reinstate their suspended licenses, should be reflected in next month’s budget. The program helps those who can either get on a payment plan or pay off all their fines in full in order to get their licenses back, according to Lucero.

District 8 Councilwoman Kate Gallego, a proponent of CAP, said she is excited for the results of the program.

“We’re looking forward to next month’s update,” Gallego said of the program and its impact on the budget. “I’d like to meet a few of the people who got their driver’s license back after many years.”

Contact the reporter at libby.allnatt@asu.edu

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