Police face cuts as other city sectors see raises

_Editor’s note: This article has been corrected from a previous version._

When the government cuts its budget, it rarely cuts it evenly across the board.

Such is the case for the city of Champaign, which cut funding to staffing for the police front desk and police records but continued to give raises to other city employees.

The budget authorized for fiscal year 2011-12 cuts two positions from the front desk and one from police records. However, two employees from the front desk have already resigned, so their spots will not be filled. The city council will discuss alternative staffing options — including possibly filling the two vacant positions — during Tuesday’s meeting.

Council member Marci Dodds, District 4, said this is the city’s third consecutive year of budget cuts, and a lot of the previous cuts have been unnoticed by the public. She said everything nonessential has already been cut, so the city has to make sacrifices.

While Champaign might be laying off some staff in the future, it is giving raises to others, including several department heads.

Freedom of Information Act requests obtained by The Daily Illini show the city of Champaign issued more than $23,000 in pay increases through the Pay for Performance program, which allows city employees who are not in bargaining units to move higher within their salary range. Union employees, including the positions cut from the police staff, are therefore not eligible.

The amount given through this program has decreased significantly from the previous year, when that number totaled more than $80,000.

For reference, the city estimates it would cost $70,678 to retain one more position at the front desk.

While the city will lay off staff during the next fiscal year to balance the budget, it also allocated about $25,000 to the Pay for Performance program. In addition, it allotted a 2 percent raise to city manager Steven Carter, who made $172,353.69 last year and is one of the city’s highest paid employees.

In contrast, members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a labor union, were required to take six furlough days last year.

A memo the city council will consider lays out three options concerning front desk staffing: cutting an employee from police records and not filling the two vacant spots, transferring a police records employee to the front desk or hiring two new staff members for the front desk.

If the position in police records is eliminated, services that might be affected include report entry on the weekends, which helps inform officers about changes to parolees and inmates, and fingerprinting, which is a revenue-generating service for the police department. The police department has not yet made a decision whether any of these services will be affected if the cuts are made.