This time, it was the cops’ turn.
Five days after Tacoma’s fire department won a big federal grant to save firefighter jobs, city officials learned Monday that the police department had won a job-saving grant of its own: The U.S. Justice Department announced that Tacoma will receive nearly $5 million to fund 15 community police officer jobs over the next three years.
“This is great news for Tacoma,” Mayor Marilyn Strickland said Monday.
The $4.97 million Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant – combined with a two-year, $7.7 million Federal Emergency Management Agency grant award to the Tacoma Fire Department – also will help fill at least part of Tacoma’s lingering $11.8 million general fund shortfall in 2012.
Tacoma officials had sought the grant – awarded to hire or keep officers based on a community’s fiscal need and local crime rates – under criteria for retaining positions facing layoffs.
“It’s a big relief,” Tacoma Police Union President Terry Krause said Monday.
Late last year, more than 100 police officers and firefighters had faced layoffs amid a huge budget shortfall facing the 2011-12 general fund. Pay concessions from unions helped temporarily avert those layoffs during a first round of cuts. But city officials warned that police and fire jobs still faced the budget ax under a second wave of expected cuts.
But so far, those cuts haven’t come. City Manager T.C. Broadnax delayed making them, as city officials waited for word on the pending grant applications.
At Strickland’s invitation, police and fire union officials traveled with her to Washington, D.C., earlier this year to lobby FEMA and the Justice Department for the grants and seek help from the state’s congressional delegation.
“We presented our situation and made our case,” Strickland said.
Tacoma had applied for a $6 million COPS grant to cover as many as 20 police jobs, officials have said. The award will cover 15 positions, but program administrators have said Tacoma received the maximum grant for a department of its size, Krause said.
A list of grant recipients issued Monday also showed that Tacoma’s award was the second highest nationwide, trailing only a $6.4 million award to the City of Los Angeles. Tacoma was among more than 220 cities and counties – including eight in Washington – to receive funding under the program. The $111 million in grant awards will fund 800 police jobs, the Obama administration said.
Tacoma’s grant will provide funding for three years. By accepting it, the city must agree to fund the 15 positions for a fourth year.
Only part of the multi-year police and fire grants will cover the 2012 budget gap, which must be closed by year’s end. City officials have yet to say how much of the shortfall will remain – or how it will be addressed – once allocations from each grant are applied to this year’s budget.
Both the police and fire departments still could face cuts in future budgets to items that aren’t protected under the grants’ terms, Broadnax said last week. The city now forecasts a deficit of up to $65 million in its next two-year general fund budget.
“We still have work to do,” Strickland said. “But this is good news.”email@example.com