Budget of the weird

City Hall today rescinded 21 of the 55 layoff notices issued to police officers in May, which was to be expected (officers taking a retirement incentive were expected to sufficiently reduce the force’s number that some layoffs could be avoided). What was not expected was that it would have any impact on the bottom blue line – a year-end staff of about 344.


The rhetoric for days, after all, has been about whether it is acceptable or not to reduce the Police Department from about 400 officers to 344, and that number was repeated over and over ahead of and at the hearing Tuesday at which the City Council adopted a budget that called for just that.


Interim Police Chief Blair Ulring, who was also under the impression he would have 344 officers on hand, said City Manager Gordon Palmer clarified it for him today. Palmer “met with me today to notify me that the council was giving credit for the PERS early requirements,” he said. The result, he said, was that the Police Department would be staffed at 365.


The council last met in closed session to talk about labor on Tuesday – before the budget hearing – and it reported taking no action. The retirement incentive was on the table long before that.


“We decided on the PERS incentive a month ago or something,” Councilman Dale Fritchen said.


Like Ulring and most everyone else, Fritchen had thought that budget savings from anticipated retirements already had been accounted for in the budget. Why they were not is unclear.


“I don’t understand why it’s going up, but it’s a good thing,” he said.


A story is in the morning paper.

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