Police & Fire Departments Answer Questions About Budget Cuts
In less than 48-hours, Lubbock city council members will discuss a proposed three-cent tax rate increase. So tonight, we continue our investigation into the city's budget.
Last night, we showed you the costs the city manager expects to increase because of inflation. Part of that includes $760,000 for firefighter raises, $900,000 for new police and firefighters, $1.42 million for new city and police cars and another $651,000 to fill those cars and the rest of the city fleet with gas.
Public safety could increase $3.7 million. So, NewsChannel 11's Jennifer Vogel took some questions we've received from viewers about costs at the fire and police departments to see if they feel any cuts can be made.
We have received some emails and phone calls from viewers. Last night, city council members also asked "are we cutting enough before we start raising?" We took that question to both Lubbock police and Lubbock fire to see if they have areas where they can cut, specifically in an area where it's hitting all our budgets...gas usage.
You see them in your neighborhoods, on the streets, and on the scene, but are police and fire watching their fleet usage, especially with high gas prices? In the budget report, the City Manager raises the same concern saying, "currently, an executive team is undertaking a full review of the city's fleet allocation, take-home vehicle usage, and the need and use of each vehicle in the fleet."
Assistant Police Chief Dale Holton says, "it's no doubt that's a considerable expense." Holton says with 300+, their gas budget exceeds half a million dollars a year, but he says citizens are getting their money's worth. "Out of the 30 years I've been driving my car home I've never had a neighbor complain a police car in the neighborhood. Citizens like that," said Holton.
But NewsChannel 11 did receive an email where a viewer brought up that concern. It reads, "with the recent price of gas I see that it is a benefit that the citizens of Lubbock cannot afford."
But Holton says officers with cars are always on duty and expected to respond to calls. "I think we would sacrifice monetary and intangible benefits to citizens if we did cut back in some way."
Meanwhile, Fire Chief Steve Hailey says fire services cost each citizen 33-cents a day. "It's an insurance premium your paying. Most people go through life and never have a fire experience, but you may have a fire in your house tomorrow, and you're going to want the fire department there," said Chief Hailey.
60-percent of fire calls are medical. Some ask, "doesn't that cost citizens more money in gas?" Chief Hailey says no. "That cost will be there if they're on a call, sleeping at the station, or on a medical call."
The Chief says the bottom line, you get what you pay for. "I'll open my budget to anyone, but I mean it's a s bare bones as it can get to provide the level of service we are."
We'll be at the city council meeting on Thursday, but know that will not be the final vote. A public hearing must be held before a vote on taxes is made.
8/7/06 The Reason Behind A Possible Tax Hike In Lubbock NewsChannel 11 is learns where the money would be going, should the city increase its tax rate. NewsChannel 11's Jennifer Vogel obtained a copy of the city's budget which will be discussed at the city council meeting this Thursday. She explains why taxes might go up.