Joliet budget includes money for more police officers
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org October 26, 2012 5:36PM
File photo | Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 29, 2012 6:39AM
JOLIET — The city will hire 10 new police officers in 2013 and pay $1.7 million more for pensions, according to a proposed budget that will be reviewed by the Joliet City Council on Monday.
Running city government will cost nearly $195 million in 2013, a 3 percent increase over this year’s operating budget.
The entire budget totals more than $274 million, including nearly $30 million for capital expenses such as street and sewer projects, and another $50 million in special funds, most of which is grant money for such projects as the new transportation center.
The budget “has no new taxes or permit and fee increases in it,” City Manager Thomas Thanas said, describing the budget as “fairly lean.” Thanas said the new police officers are a major addition to the budget and an expense that is being partially covered by not filling vacancies elsewhere.
But citizens groups and residents demanded more officers earlier this year when the city dropped its neighborhood policing program. At the time, Thanas said police had to be transferred to patrol because of a manpower shortage.
Thanas cautioned that 10 new police officers does not automatically mean a return of the neighborhood policing program. He said determining where police should be deployed will have to be decided with Police Chief Mike Trafton.
But Mayor Thomas Giarrante and council members, who ultimately will determine what’s in the budget, have said they want to bring neighborhood policing back.
The $30 million in capital spending will cover streets, sewer projects and other improvements.
Thanas said the $1.7 million increase in city contributions to police and fire pension funds was another major expense in the budget.
The city also will set aside about $2 million to increase its reserve funds to $47 million, an amount that Thanas said will keep city reserves at roughly two months worth of operating expenses.
The city council will review the budget for the first time during a meeting at 4 p.m. Monday in city hall.
Other changes from this year highlighted in the 2013 budget proposal that was first made available Friday include:
A $1.8 million increase in local sales taxes, largely due to a full year of a tax increase that went into effect this year;
A forecasted decline in gambling taxes of $556,000, reflecting a general decline in casino business even as the city picks up some new revenue from the onset of video gambling;
An 11.1 percent decrease in overtime costs because of the hiring of more police officers along with eight firefighters recently added with funding from a federal grant.