Local governments provide nothing more important than public safety.
People will not invest lavishly in homes, businesses and schools without a reasonable expectation of security for their lives and properties. For a community to succeed, its residents must sleep at night without excessive fear of crime or disaster.
So it is good news to see Mayor John Suthers propose to the Colorado Springs City Council a 2020 budget that emphasizes hiring and raises for the city’s police and fire personnel, who risk their lives to ensure everyone else can lead their lives in relative safety.
As a twice-successful candidate for mayor, Suthers has consistently pledged to make public safety a top priority. To date, he has kept that promise.
His $331.1 million general fund budget proposal allocates $9.65 million to increase wages for firefighters, cops and civilian employees. An additional $4.4 million would fund the hiring of 20 police officers and eight firefighters.
Suthers promised he would add at least 120 sworn law enforcement officers and 32 firefighters before completing his second and final term in office in 2022. With this budget, he will be well on the way by the end of 2020 with 93 new officers and 24 firefighters. The budget also contains $1 million for a new Fire Department ladder truck.
With these additions to personnel, we respectfully suggest the police and fire departments try to avoid overtime spending. At least partly because of inadequate staffing, due in part to the community’s rapid growth, the Fire Department in September had to make budgetary sacrifices to cover a nearly $1 million budget shortfall for 2019. That shifting forced several key administrative personnel to work on fire crews.
As reported by Gazette reporter Conrad Swanson, other key elements of the budget proposal include:
• An increase of $1.45 million for parks watering and an additional $400,000 for park maintenance and recreational and cultural services,
• $1.3 million for the city’s information technology infrastructure, applications and cybersecurity improvements,
• $550,000 for fleet replacement,
• $500,000 for shelter bed operations for homeless people,
• and $300,000 for Mountain Metro Transit.
Colorado Springs should never have a bloated city government that tries to be all things to everyone. It should always have a city government that provides top-of-the-line public safety, reasonable public transit, and a safety net for the homeless that emphasizes recovery from the addictions, medical and mental conditions so often associated with poverty.
Under the leadership of Suthers and the council, Colorado Springs has a stable government people can trust. That is one reason our community has attracted enviable investments in housing developments, roads, stormwater infrastructure, tourist attractions, cultural and sporting amenities, and an assortment of businesses.
Checks and balances, among the city’s legislative and executive branches, are part of what keep our community stable. That is why the mayor’s budget proposal, like all others, will go to the council for tweaks, approval or rejection. Council members will scrutinize the numbers and rule as they see fit, hopefully with nothing other than the community’s best interests in mind.
On the surface, this budget proposal looks like more good news. Hopefully, the council agrees or has great ideas to make a good proposal better.