The city of Merced is planning to hire new officers and upgrade their equipment in the next fiscal year, according to the first draft of the city’s budget.
The proposed $200 million 2016-17 city budget is about 1 percent smaller than the previous year, while the general fund has grown by about 0.9 percent to $39.6 million. The Merced City Council got its first look at the city’s coffers Thursday in a special budget review session.
City Manager Steve Carrigan said the budget would make room for new police officers, a goal the Merced City Council has said is a priority. Upon approval of the budget, the department would have funding for 94 officers, which remains fewer than the city’s all-time high count of 111 in 2007.
“One of the themes for council was over the next three to four to five years was to do (our) best to add three officers every year,” Carrigan told the Sun-Star. “That was the absolute first thing we said, ‘We are going to do this.’ ”
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$200 millionThe proposed 2016-17 fiscal year budget
The annual tug-of-war during budget season comes from youth advocates calling for more activities and job training programs for young people and those in the city who want more officers.
Carrigan noted the council held three town-hall-style meetings in different parts of town over the last several months, and city staff met 10 times to go over departmental budgets before drafting a budget.
The proposed budget would add 13 new employees, including those officers, in the new fiscal year. There’s also a number of shake-ups in department organization and job titles.
For example, the Police Department would add a captain position and delete a lieutenant. “It’s an opportunity to promote from within, but it also gives us a captain on every shift,” Carrigan said.
About $160,000 is proposed to replace aging guns, body cameras and car cameras, he said. The .45-caliber weapons used by local police have had problems jamming, so officers will trade them in for 9 mm pistols.
It’s been about 15 years since the Police Department replaced the officers’ guns, according to city staff.
“The guns have to work, the body cameras have to work, and the in-car cameras have to work,” Carrigan said. “Those are absolutes.”
The city is set to also add five firefighters, he said, which could shrink the amount spent on overtime.
The guns have to work, the body cameras have to work, and the in-car cameras have to work. Those are absolutes.
Steve Carrigan, Merced city manager
Beyond public safety spending, Carrigan said, the city needs to update outdated software, replace computers and upgrade other technology. Those upgrades could cost more $2 million.
For those looking for dollars for youth programs, Carrigan said, city staff is putting together a list of the opportunities that exist and any new programs for a presentation next week.
“We’re not going to do everything that some of the community advocates want. It’s just not going to happen,” he said. “We just don’t have that kind of money.”
The council is set to take a more in-depth look at the Parks and Recreation budget and the Economic Development department’s funds at another special meeting at 5:30 p.m. May 26 at City Hall, 678 W. 18th St.