Ypsilanti City Council reduces police layoffs by half
The Ypsilanti Police Department will be reduced by 2.5 positions in the next fiscal year that begins July 1, down from five earlier proposed layoffs.
The City Council unanimously approved a budget amendment Tuesday night to retain two neighborhood patrol officers and a half-time position dedicated to patrolling downtown areas.
The council originally expected to lay off five officers as it works to reduce its expenditures by $1.4 million over the next two fiscal years. The city was able to exceed that goal and now has a projected surplus of roughly $89,000 in fiscal year 2012.
Given the projected surplus, Council Member Pete Murdock developed the amendment with City Manager Ed Koryzno. Murdock said the council was successful in meeting several of its budgetary goals, including reducing expenditures and avoiding layoffs in the fire department.
Last month, the Ypsilanti Fire Department avoided layoffs after the union agreed to a 5 percent pay cut and greater contributions to health care benefits.
Murdock said the city needed to then focus on saving police personnel.
Retaining the 2.5 positions will come at a cost of $153,088. Existing police appropriations cover two-thirds of the costs. The city originally expected to lay off five officers, and the budget included $95,000 in unemployment contributions.
One officer has already found a job, and Koryzno said a second will likely soon find employment elsewhere, eliminating the city’s obligation to pay their unemployment contributions. Three officers will stay employed, allowing the city to transfer the $76,000 in unemployment costs toward the $153,088.
The city also will save roughly $25,000 in budgeted overtime costs associated with the five layoffs, leaving it to pay $52,088 from its fund balance for the three officers.
Saving the half-time officer dedicated to the downtown area is contingent upon the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority agreeing to pay $60,000 toward the officer.
Murdock said the neighborhood patrols have a proven track record. He also noted the downtown patrol has been effective in creating a secure environment and overcoming a perception that Ypsilanti isn't safe.
“I think they work very well with all the neighborhood associations and been very successful in their efforts,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of discussion with a lot of people saying what a good operation that is.”
Mayor Paul Schreiber initially raised questions about how the amendment would affect the city’s financial picture beyond the two years it is budgeting. He said while the city now has projected surpluses for the next two years, it will begin making Water Street debt payments of $1.2 million out of its reserves in 2012.
Schreiber said the city's financial situation will likely be more dire then, but he ultimately voted to approve the amendment.
Council Member Lois Richardson agreed the city is receiving “a bargain.”
“It certainly can’t hurt us,” she said.
Ypsilanti Police Officers Association President Robert Peto said the amendment is a step in the right direction, but said the city could have saved all five positions. He argued other viable alternatives existed and questioned why police personnel took such a big hit.
“It’s disappointing and it’s unfortunate - I think it’s jumping over a dollar to save a dime,” he said. “It’s going to cost confidence in the city. We’re going to have a difficult time maintaining current coverage.”
Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com. Reach the news desk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2530.