Wichita City Council passed a $577 million dollar budget Tuesday afternoon. However, there was much debate on the addition of new police officers. Initially council was split on passing the budget because it meant cutting police officers. They decided on adding 10 positions however they won't be filled right away.
As council discussed the 2015 budget, the hot topic before passing it was the addition of police officers. Jeff Blubaugh, Wichita Vice Mayor said, "I feel like the police is the core service of the city."
According to police Chief Norman Williams the city currently has authorization for 425 officers but they're down 40. That 425 included 10 grant funded positions, but that grant has run out. That means the city will have to find about $750,000 dollars to fund those salaries. Blubaugh said, "we didn't want to see the police officers on the streets being reduced."
Lavonta Williams, City Council Member said, "that is one of the things that I am hearing that people are concerned with public safety and they would like to see more presence."
The Wichita Police Department says retirements have caused shortages in it's force. Robert Layton, Wichita City Manager said, "he's (Wichita PD Chief) had more vacancies probably in the last year or two. Not because of deployment but because of retirements that have come along."
While the budget with the additional officers passed council agreed to review the positions, staffing levels and deployment strategies before the budget took effect. Blubaugh said, "we're going to need more police when we're going downtown and covering the new entertainment district."
These additional officers won't be added right away.