Police adding officers?

You all may have heard from Donila at his Porch that Police Chief David Rausch wants some more officers on the staff, after his report today that the sheriff wants more for schools.

Last year he didn’t ask for as many positions, as I recall, but it’s also unlikely that he would get them (my words) this year. And before we get anywhere down the road on what the new staff would be used for (patrol, investigation, resource officers, etc.), here’s a few of the things straining the budget even before we get into the talks:

The city still must pay for its vastly underfunded pension. Though the referendum that passed helped for decades to come, it did nothing to stop the current widening gap to the city employees pension. Mayor Madeline Rogero has $10 million on deck to help stop the bleeding, but that only can go so far.

It’s an election year. Finding money in the budget, with the expected pension payment coming, will be tough without a property tax rate increase. And it will be hard to sell to Council in a year with a majority of its members seeking a return to office. Voters don’t like property tax rate hikes.

Rausch doesn’t have the same kind of leverage as an elected office. It’s not to say that he has none – he is the head of the city’s police force and his words have weight with the mayor, council and plenty of others – but at the end of it all, he’s an employee of the mayor’s administration. That’s to say that he could ask for an aircraft carrier to patrol Fort Loudon Lake, but whatever passes will come from the mayor’s budget. Rausch is not elected. That means that he answers to the mayor and less to the electorate than, say, a sheriff. (Generally, the assumption behind having appointed instead of elected leaders for the municipal services is that those heads in charge of the things that help the city run would not be influenced by politics and emphasize on the best practices to run the department for the entire city rather than certain neighborhoods. How that theory is carried out in practice in general is debatable, but it’s pretty common for city services).

In general, in any public budget, department heads ask for far more than they expect to receive in hopes that they will get a few new things. If they don’t ask for anything, then they won’t get anything. To WAY oversimplify the matter, remember back when you asked your folks for money for the movies as a kid. Maybe you’d ask for $10 – enough for a ticket and popcorn (more like $25 now, but, eh) – and only get $5. You’d have enough for the ticket. A compromise.


About Gerald

A journalist in Knoxville, TN. Work (mostly) inside and play (mostly) outside. I'm a part of the X or the Y generation. None of us claim the other.
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