Law board needs another meeting to discuss budget

By Bryan Richardson

The Riley County Law Board discussed the department’s proposed budget Monday and decided that another special meeting will be needed.

The board didn’t set a date for what will be the third special meeting on the topic.

Board chair Karen McCulloh stressed the importance of coming to a decision quickly since the decision on the department budget affects both the city and county budgets. Although the board did not discuss specific numbers Monday, it has at previous meetings looked at a proposed $18.198 million departmental budget that is about $1 million (6.2 percent) higher than the $17.127 million current-year budget. “At this point, we need to come up with some kind of answer, so we can all get along with our budgets,” McCulloh said.

City officials expressed caution about how much money they are willing to allot to the RCPD. The city funds 80 percent of the department and Riley County contributes the other 20 percent.

Board member Dave Lewis called for formulation of a budget “that is going to be able to work with both the city and the county.” Board members and city commissioners John Matta and Wynn Butler both stated their opposition to raising taxes in order to support increased law enforcement spending.

Butler said he doesn’t want to see the city spend more than what it receives from the current tax revenue. “That’s what I’d like to see us do, start looking at local government from the standpoint of how much is in the checkbook,” he said.

Matta said the board has to present to the RCPD what the city and county can afford. He said the board shouldn’t advocate getting something irrespective of the cost.

McCulloh disagreed, saying the law board has been talking for several years about increasing the size of the police force. She doesn’t mind a slight mill levy if needed to fund the extra positions.

“We, the law board, must take that responsibility and not just say here’s the budget, go balance it,” McCulloh said.

RCPD requests thus far have called for addition of two to three sworn officers, a civilian public information officer and a CSI lab tech.

RCPD director Brad Schoen presented the board with per capita officer ratios of other jurisdictions comparable by salary or for departments with a population more than 20,000.

He said the RCPD ranked 18th out of 25 departments with 1.462 officers per 1,000 people. Schoen considered a ratio of 1.5 to 1.8 as typical. The highest number of officers per capita belongs to Topeka with 2.243 officers per 1,000 people.

Board member Loren Pepperd cautioned board members about the potential impact of state or federal budget changes on the local process. “The big bear out there in the woods” is how future budgets will look,” Pepperd said, due to those federal government and the state government funding reorganizations. “Those changes will have a probably have a very unknown impact on both the city and county fiscal planning for the next upcoming years,” he said.

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