Tacoma’s proposed police and fire budget for the next two years just got beefed up: Two more police officers and four additional firefighters for Station 13 in the Proctor District have been added to the roster.
What still isn’t in the budget: Funding to reopen and operate a fire station on the Tideflats.
The adds come from City Councilman Robert Thoms, who proposed putting an extra $1.65 million toward public safety in the 2017-18 proposed budget Tuesday. It was a more modest request than what he and other council members asked for in a letter to City Manager T.C. Broadnax a few days earlier, which would have added four police officers and reopened a fire station on the Tideflats, which doesn’t have one.
“This amendment actually looks to add an additional set of services that would address emergency services both in fire and police, and it does so by looking through other parts of the budget to find savings,” Thoms said at the council meeting. “In my opinion, what this represents is just another step in a budget that was already moving in the right direction to make sure we’re trying to restore some of the services even faster than we might have otherwise done so.”
The 2017-18 budget, which has been largely lauded by the City Council, already added police officers and firefighters to begin restoring Recession-era cuts. Broadnax’s budget called for 17 added positions in the Police Department and eight more in the Fire Department. But Thoms and some council members said that didn’t go far enough, given the growing emergency services calls as well as surging property crimes.
Most of the money, $1.15 million, will be used to fund four additional firefighters at Fire Station 13 in Proctor, making it a round-the-clock firefighting operation — necessary, Thoms said, for what he and other council members called one of the most densely populated parts of the city.
The remaining $500,000 will pay for two additional police officers over the 2017-18 budget cycle.
To balance the budget, trims had to be made in several departments. Some of the bigger cuts come from the Fire Department’s own budget:
▪ $400,000 saved by cutting a new fire alerting system
▪ $241,000 saved by not adding a Fire Department management analyst
▪ $41,000 in cuts to the fire cadet program, which will now be budgeted at $150,000
The council also cut $250,000 from its own contingency fund and redirected $260,000 that the city had expected to pay for a new school resource officer that will be covered by Tacoma Public Schools.
“I really applaud (city staff) for taking the time to really help us find dollars that didn’t make huge cuts to other programs and other things that you would be standing here with 10 times as many people being upset about what other things we cut,” Councilwoman Victoria Woodards said at Tuesday’s council meeting.
Mayor Marilyn Strickland pointed out that the city, in addition to adding fire and police positions, is earmarking money for 10 police officers and 20 firefighters whose positions were previously covered by grants.
Thoms, whose district includes Northeast Tacoma, said he hasn’t given up on a fire station for the Tideflats.
He wants the Port of Tacoma to help pay for reopening the station, which he said is especially needed as the port’s portfolio moves away from a container model and toward petrochemical uses, including the liquefied natural gas plant that’s been proposed for the Tideflats.
Northeast Tacoma resident Ann Locsin said at Tuesday’s meeting that she is tired of her neighborhood being treated like “the forgotten stepchild of Tacoma,” and said the city’s budget should include more public safety resources for them.
“Things like cancer and safety do not discriminate based on bank accounts,” Locsin said. “Our Northeast Tacoma community is vulnerable in a couple of different ways. This is a huge red flag.”