Burlington Police Face A Budget Squeeze - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Burlington Police Face A Budget Squeeze

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It's a problem plaguing cities all across the QCA.

Maintaining public safety positions while keeping a balanced budget.

That's getting harder in cities that have used grant money to plug funding gaps.

Burlington used to have 44 officers patrolling its streets.

That number has dwindled over the years, hovering around 41 officers.

Three years ago, the city used a federal police grant to keep that number from falling to 39 officers, but the money is gone.

The grant requires the city to pay the cost of those two officers for a fourth year.

That's adding 160-thousand dollars back into the city budget.

Helping erase savings the city realized when it left eight positions unfilled several months ago.

The cost of those officers pensions is also rising.

The city has to pay 250-thousand dollars more into Iowa's public safety pension fund.

Putting more pressure on the city, after a year when it's police were called 38-thousand times.

The police chief says so many calls prevents his officers from getting out of their cars and into the neighborhoods.

"Trying to interact with the community and get out of the car and get on foot and do those things, it doesn't leave time for that, it doesn't leave time for a lot of proactive programs," says Police Chief Doug Beaird.

"There is no room for that discussion, realistically we're doing our darndest not to lose another position within our fire or police," says City Manager Jim Ferneau.

If the city can afford to hire an additional officer the chief says he'll hire two part time community service officers.

Letting those officers respond to lower priority calls, freeing up the full time staff to concentrate on community policing.

Ferneau says the budget has long term structural issues.

The city's costs are rising faster than its property tax revenue.

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