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One Cd’A police sergeant back in budget talks

by CRAIG NORTHRUP
Staff Writer | August 5, 2020 1:06 AM

Tuesday night’s City Council meeting saw movement over a public safety debate found between the lines of Coeur d’Alene’s preliminary budget.

After hearing competing arguments from councilmembers Christie Wood and Woody McEvers at the July 21 meeting that weighed the merits of increasing public safety salary budgets in the midst of a pandemic, council moved forward with a middle-ground proposal Tuesday night: Rather than choose between funding two new sergeant positions within the Coeur d’Alene Police Department (as Wood argued for) or applying financial restraint as the city’s budget looks to tighten from COVID-19’s grip (as McEvers urged), the city will move forward in budget discussions with a high-water mark that splits the difference with one sergeant’s position.

“This budget adds back in the one public safety position,” Mayor Steve Widmyer explained. “It adds back in a sergeant we hired the first of January, and then adds back in the $80,000 previously proposed as a reduction in supplies in services.”

Tuesday’s agreement doesn’t finalize the budget; rather, it sets the high-water mark for this year’s maximum dollar figure of $112,756,640 in revenues — which includes $687,110 from a 3-percent property tax increase, should Gov. Brad Little’s proposal to pay for public safety salaries through federal CARES Act funds fall through — and $104,165,274 in revised expenditures.

The vote did not finalize these numbers but rather serve as the budget’s high-water mark, the maximum expenditures and revenues to be considered and possibly whittled down until a final budget can be hashed out. It also allows for the city to properly notice a public hearing, which requires a high-water mark.

Before the vote, city administrator Troy Tymesen said finding money to fund one sergeant’s position is a line item that, if passed, will help maintain public safety at a more reasonable cost.

“We took a look at all the concerns to see if we can assist with public safety priorities,” Tymesen said Monday. “We hear from different voices on this, including the overtime Chief (Lee) White has proposed and talked about in the past. We think this is a viable path.”

But that extra position is not yet set in stone. The city has, along with almost every other municipality in America, grappled with forecasting a budget for the 2021 fiscal year as the first full quarter of an economy devastated by COVID-19 has come to pass. Once the city hears from the public, final negotiations will carry into the fall.

“We can’t do everything all the time,” Tymesen told The Press, “so what if we did this? We’ll propose one sergeant and hope for all the best outcomes.”

Tymesen reiterated with council that stretching the budget is a team effort.

“I think what you’ve been seeing is, the city continues to do more with less,” he said Tuesday night. “And we keep adding roles and responsibilities without adding a lot of staff and being creative with technologies.”

Wood said she was happy to see a renewed effort to keep an extra police sergeant, one spearheaded by Widmyer.

“I do appreciate the time you’ve put in to (find) the revenue,” Wood told Widmyer. “You’ve tried to fund the sergeant’s position … You worked really hard on that, and I appreciate it.”