A 5 percent cut across the board affects all departments equally -- even the ones a study showed were funded less than comparable cities.
The Hutchinson Police Department, like all other departments, was cut 5 percent from next year’s budget as city officials attempt to stop dipping into reserves and align revenues with expenses. During a budget meeting on Tuesday, the HPD found out they would possibly not be allowed to fill a vacant position in order to save the city another roughly $65,000 with salary and benefits.
“We are nine positions down now, but we are able to maintain,” Capt. Troy Hoover said, adding cutting one of those vacancies would not be detrimental. “We will make do with the cuts and roll with it as best we can.”
A 2016 study done by Gallagher Consulting showed the HPD’s budgeted staff spending that year was $6.43 million — excluded is the Hutchinson Animal Shelter under the HPD.
The roughly $75,000 study compared city departments with its counterparts in Salina, Manhattan and Leavenworth as well as Grand Island, Nebraska; Joplin, Missouri and Enid, Oklahoma.
Hutchinson was the only department with a staff under 100 people and had the lowest budget out of the group. The study listed Hutchinson’s population at 42,080.
Salina’s population of 47,707 had a police department with a personnel budget of $7.4 million. And Enid, the most comparable city according to Human Resources Director Tom Sanders, was at just over $8 million to serve a population of 49,379.
Hutchinson’s spending per capita is also the lowest at $153 per person; Salina was second with $156 then Enid at $162.
Enid and Salina had higher total budgets that year too.
Comparing staffing salaries to population, Hutchinson paid the highest price for its golf course at $12 per person. It was also the highest for staffing in finance and utility billing, engineering, public works street program and animal services.
All of those fell within $1 or $2 per person from the second highest except for the street program and animal services.
In 2016, the budget for animal services was $14 per person; Salina was second with $7 per person. Enid’s $6 per person was the only other city with data available.
The street program, which includes maintenance of the levee system, was $48 per person. Grand Island was second with $45 per person then Salina at $41, city officials stated.
During the budget process underway, Public Works Director Bryan Clennan said he has already had two positions cut from street maintenance, effectively changing the Hutchinson's per person cost for that program.
The animal shelter’s budget increase has been a big complaint among some members of the Hutchinson City Council. It went from subsidies of $326,071 in 2016 to an anticipated $452,842 next year.
Back in June, city officials began cutting down department budgets. The city faces declining sales tax revenue which is Hutchinson’s single largest revenue source.
Roughly $3.9 million in cuts have been proposed so far. Revenue projections are $34.7 million compared to expenses of $35.2 million.
Capt. Hoover said the cuts to the HPD included $20,000 toward improvements for the firing range shared with the Reno County Sheriff’s Office, $60,000 for patrol vehicles, $40,000 for unmarked vehicles and another $23,000 for cameras, radios and software.
“None of them are good,” Hoover said. “It’s just a lot them are going to delay future improvements.”
The HPD’s position cut is one of the nine vacancies the department has for a patrol officer position. Hoover said the 113-person department, including staff at the animal shelter, is allotted 72 commissioned officers.
They currently have 63. He said the starting wage is $19 an hour. They hope to fill a few of the other vacancies during interviews next week. It’s hard to find good applicants, which is a problem police departments around the country face.
“We pay pretty well here,” Hoover said.
At a budget meeting, Hoover previously pleaded with city officials to not cut the community resource officer program. The program was revived in 2017. Hoover said he would find the anticipated $120,000 in savings elsewhere.
The HPD still have the green light on the city’s second-largest anticipated capital improvement project. The HPD’s $2.49 million project will renovate the Law Enforcement Center to allow for expansion over the years.
The HPD will take over the space being used by the sheriff’s office which will over to the courthouse.
The sketch for the project will be done by Landmark Architects, which designed the 1970s building. The project is slated to start in January and will take up to 12 months, Hoover said.
The project will include improvements to the current LEC entryway, walling off the LEC from the courthouse and a handicap-accessible bathroom.
Chief Dick Heitschmidt said the improvements will accommodate the department for at least the next 10 years.
City officials said they plan to ask the Reno County Commission to contribute to the project since the building is county-owned.