November 1, 2014

Council fails to reach consensus on 3 new police hires

Danedri Thompson
submissions@gardnernews.com
Gardner City Council members debated hiring three additional police officers in 2012. The extra manpower would add $198,900 to the city’s bottom line and increase property taxes 1.5 mills, according to a city staff proposed budget.
Council members failed to reach a consensus on the issue during a budget work session on June 27, although Police Chief Ken Francis made his case for new officers at the meeting.
“We know it’s tough times,” Francis told council members. “If you can help us, we appreciate it. If you can’t, we’ll know you tried.”
Francis made the request because Gardner’s number of officers per thousand residents declined following the merger of part of Gardner Public Safety and Johnson County Fire District No. 1 last year. The merger stripped the local department of nine, cross-utilized fire and police specialists.
When discussions started to merge the county fire department with a portion of the local public safety department, Francis said it appeared the manpower concerns would kill the deal.
“The view was it probably couldn’t be done because we’d need to add more officers,” Francis said. “That’s how it started, but that’s not how it ended… We said at the time that we could open the police station without missing a beat. We probably didn’t assert ourselves enough. I’ll take whatever responsibility for that.”
Also, last year, one officer was dismissed and another resigned, and the two positions were never filled due to budget constraints. The departures left the Gardner Police Department with 1.35 officers per thousand residents. According to Francis, between 1.8 and 2.2 officers per thousand residents is considered standard. The Gardner Police Department would need to add 11 officers to reach the average for the Kansas City metro area.
“We try to make sure we have enough people to handle two calls at one time, and a supervisor,” Francis said.
Things get tricky when more than two calls come in, or when an officer is pulled away to write reports, appear in court or attend mandated annual training. During those times, Francis said police officials rely on backup from the county and other law enforcement agencies, a volunteer reserve officer program, and overtime.
Though the additional staff wouldn’t dramatically decrease overtime, they would provide flexibility, Francis explained. Police protection is one of the most important things council provides citizens, he said.
“If you had a lot of money sitting in the bank, I’d probably really be dancing a lot harder,” Francis said. “No one wants to raise taxes.”
The extra help is important enough that Francis said he’d rather have more bodies than new police cars.
“Maybe we can put off by one year buying new cars,” he told council. “With the condition we try to keep our cars, we could hedge. I do believe we need (new officers) that bad.”
Council member Kristina Harrison offered other solutions to fund new officers without hiking property taxes. She said forgoing new cars would save the council $114,000 next year, and cutting a proposed $75,000 comprehensive plan update would get the council even closer.
However, Interim City Administrator Melissa Mundt cautioned the council that those items are one-time expenditures while the new officers would need to be funded beyond just next year.
“I want to caution against the short term focus on a long-term project,” she said.
“But it does buy us some time,” Council member Brian Broxterman said.
Council member Chris Morrow also suggested cutting the comprehensive plan update as well as a proposed dump truck replacement.
Council member Larry Fotovich said whatever the council decides they should not raise taxes.
Mundt said she’d like council members to carefully consider the proposal and how it might create challenges in future budgets. She said she’d hate to hire three police officers in 2012 only to have to lay off five people in 2013.
Council must determine what items they will retain in the proposed 2012 budget in time to officially publicize the information during by mid-July. A final budget must be approved and sent to the state no later than Aug. 25.
In other business, council members:
• heard budget presentations from directors of parks and recreation, finance and public works. The proposed budgets for all three departments are relatively flat.
• heard a presentation from Johnson County Fire District No. 1. The fire district responded to more than 550 EMS and fire calls between January 2011 and May 2011. Their response time averaged 3.6 minutes. According to lease for services contract between the city and the fire district, fire officials are required to keep call response times under 5 minutes.

Comments

  1. Do you notice how most of the departments have not made cuts but want to remain flat? Do you realize what that astronomical debt had and is doing to you and do you realize how you got that debt and who brought it to you? Do you realize how they didn’t tell you the real financial affects there would be by losing your local fire department and how you will be paying much more in the future for your fire protection? Do you realize what happens when you continue to spend more money than what you have coming in? Do you realize what happens when your city government takes care of the Big Boys and the special interests rather than their citizens? Do you realize how your Mayor and staff want to continue to spend more money than what we have and solve that problem by increasing the mill levy once again and giving the citizens a higher tax bill? When will fiscal responsbility ever be on the table or stopping of cronyism goverment occur with the poor management and dictatorship we now have? I would say NEVER.

  2. Seems to me that there are more police in Gardner than any other city our size.

  3. Do you realize you have mill levy increases since we haven’t had enough money to make our bond payments? Do you know how some of those bonds are for the thieves such as those developers getting their benefit districts? One of those developers hasn’t even paid his taxes to ANY taxing entity for the past two years and the third year back was getting his fraudulent farm assessment in my opinion which results in 37 CENTS (for each parcel) to the Gardner citizens for the whole period of THREE YEARS. Then you have the likes of dear ole Licuasi who also got his cronyism benefit district along with his fraudulent farm assessment resulting in him giving the citizens I believe it was $1.09 in taxes to the Gardner citizens on one parcel this past year. I know who Drovetta and his kind work for and I know who he is financially raping.

    Do you realize what the Sam Hill this city government has been doing to you for years and is continuing to do to you???? Do you even care??? I have no evidence of either.

  4. Go to

    http://www.gardnerkansas.gov/2012_proposed_budget to review ALL 333 pages of the proposed 2012 City of Gardner budget. Called UPS Store and they will charge me $21.78 to copy 333 pages. I’ll give them my money before I give that amount to the city of Gardner who will give it to the thieves before they will take care of the citizens. And I better not find out that UPS Store is getting some sweet deal from the citizens that I don’t know about.

    Hope the library makes a hard copy available to all citizens. Of course, computers are also available to all citizens at the library and they can review this proposed budget on line, however, to me that large amount of information I need in hard copy to highlight, scribble on and cuss on I am sure. Get informed and educated – it is your only chance for a decent government. Take your questions to City Hall and make sure they take care of you and not give you the run around and if that fails, go to a Council Meeting and speak during the time alloted for citizen comments and let those Council members know what your experience has been or what concerns you have – hold all of their feet to the fire if you have to – it is your city, it is your tax dollars, it is your government.

  5. Jeff Barber says:

    So are you willing to have new trees & trails put into your Parks system over new Officers? Are you willing to pay $10k every other year for a city survey or actually have Officers on the street? Are you willing to pay $75k for consultant work for a plan the city won’t even follow or have officers on the street? All I hear is “don’t raise taxes so we’ll do without new officers”. Why not take the money from other places? Why is Parks & Rec the sacred cow?

  6. Hey Jeff, do you like bankrolling the developers who don’t even pay their taxes or only pennies and get fraudulent assessments and then we don’t have the money to pay the bonds we floated for their sorry rearends????? And your city gives you one of the highest tax bills in the whole county just like your school district gives you the highest tax bill in the whole STATE. Think those jerks are working for ya??????? Huh, Huh, Huh……think that school district is working on your behalf to get those 38 companies in New Century to pay their taxes while we lose million and millions and millions of tax dollars for perhaps as long as 40 YEARS – No they aren’t – they have luncheons with all of the other thieves and slimy government representatives we have……….

  7. Whatever Judith says:

    WOW All I can say is get a life Judith, you’re going to get a medical condition if you keep acting like this. Check your blood pressure I think it might be slightly elevated.

  8. My blood pressure is not up but yours should be……..I have seen all this crap for so many years it is like eating breakfast every day but pretty soon your tax burden and other costs are going to be so high you won’t be able to afford to eat breakfast……continue your smartass remarks while tax bill gets bigger and your quality of life goes down the drain……

  9. Gardnerman says:

    Wasn’t the primary argument for handing off our fire protection to the county that it would save the city $50,000/yr? And now we hear that because we lost personnel to the county, it will cost $200,000/yr to replace them? Looks like someone wasn’t paying attention (including me).

  10. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    The City of Gardner has solicited sealed bids due by July 20 for the rehabilitation of 183rd Street between Center Street and Moonlight Road. I believe this is the only road improvement project in the current budget. From then on, current funding will permit only minimal patching and crack sealing of city streets. Without additional funding, our roads, water and sewer lines are doomed to more rapid deterioration.

    With property values plummeting and sales taxes declining, the City of Overland Park has in recent years cut its capital expenses by nearly 60%, eliminated scores of jobs, nixed planned employee pay increases, dropped health care benefits for retirees over age 65. Additionally, OP has six vacant police positions, eliminated the DARE drug prevention program in the Shawnee Mission School District and decreased street maintenance by $1.7 million a year. The city has seen its debt payments double since 2003.

    In spite of all those efforts, the OP City Council is now considering a minimum 40% increase in property tax rates as part of their proposed 2012 budget. A minimum 3.6 mill, or optional 4.1 mill increase, the first since 2004, has been proposed to help rebuild their general fund reserves to protect the city’s AAA bond rating, add 50% for street maintenance and provide additional police officers. Without the tax increase, OP faces cutting dozens more employees, closing city facilities, such as one of the city swimming pools, and further diminishing street maintenance.

    I wish the Gardner City Council members and city administration well as they struggle to formulate our 2012 city budget. There just doesn’t seem to be any easy, quick or painless fixes. However, it certainly would be of great benefit to the process if the governing body and city staff would work together with respect and consideration for one another.

  11. Our Dictator and his hand picked Three Stooges and city staff, I am sure, will work together to bring to fruition this proposed 2012 Budget which will give all citizens a higher tax bill and they also will be handing out more sweet deals to the cronies and the thieves and it will occur due to citizen apathy……..

  12. Oh yes, Jerry, please give us a report on what you found out about the school dist. videotaping all city meetings. I really want to know how that came out.

  13. Charlie K says:

    Selling off our city piece by piece is definately a huge mistake and very short sighted. I thought it might actually take a few years before we saw the impact but it looks like I was wrong. Only a few months later we are already seeing how it really didn’t save the city anything.

    I agree with Jeff 100%. I think our priorities are really out of order and there are a lot of things in the budget that could be done away with, at least for right now.

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