Editor’s note: This story is the sixth in a series of budget- focused stories The Transcript will share over the next few weeks as the city gets closer to its budget deadline. Each story delves into specific city departments’ budget requests, functions and biggest needs. The Transcript shared the same set of questions with each department to get a comparable view of each department’s requests.
This week, the Norman Police Department answered The Transcript’s questions, from why its budget has increased this year, to what its most critical needs are for its area of local government operations.
Staff begins work on the proposed budget in September, and through meetings with fellow members of city hall and the Norman City Council, prioritizes each department’s needs.
In The Transcript’s reporting, a dividing line emerged between departments that find a wide array of grants to supplement their budgets, like public safety and parks and recreation, and departments like the city clerk and municipal court that do not have that luxury.
The NPD receives some grant funding for various programs, and receives a portion of the voter-approved Public Safety Sales Tax (PSST) fund.
Among all the city’s departments, the NPD’s budget has been the most contentious and widely discussed over the last year.
In June 2020, the Norman City Council amended the NPD’s budget to redirect $865,000 of a proposed budget increase from police into community programs and a city auditor. The council upheld its decision this spring.
The NPD’s budget has continued to draw public conversation this year as the city hears feedback on its proposed FY22 budget. As recently as Tuesday night, the council’s meetings have drawn advocates and Norman residents to share their input on the city’s police funding.
Norman Police Department Q. How much has your department requested this year, and how much more or less do you seek than the previous fiscal year?
The police department is primarily funded by the city’s general and PSST funds.
The total proposed funding for the police department from all funds for FYE22 is $32,241,169. This is an increase of $1,087,362 (+3.5%) from the FYE21 budget.
Q. What is the reason for the budget amount you seek? What are the most critical needs and largest expenditures in your department this fiscal year? What about the next five years?
The vast majority of every department’s budget is personnel-related costs. These costs are the result of contractual agreements the city has maintained with the employees and are not in any way set or controlled by the departments individually.
Due to the complex, around-the-clock services we provide our community every day, the police department has the largest number of employees within the city departments. In addition to the highly-recognized elements of patrol, community outreach, school resource officers (SROs), investigations and traffic, the department also provides communications services for the entire city as well as necessary animal welfare and parking services functions.
Q. How much of your budget, on average, ends up being supplemented through grants?
Our agency continually seeks additional funding sources intended for providing solutions to specific needs.
Regularly-occurring grants sought annually include OHSO, JAG and COPS programs. These funding sources provide necessary resources for traffic safety education and enforcement (seatbelts, DUI) and other specific items such as victims advocacy programs. Most of these grants are accounted for separately in the Special Grants Fund.
We currently have one pending grant that would provide partial funding for the four remaining PSST SRO positions for three years, if voter approval is given for an increase in the Public Safety Sales Tax rate to adequately fund the additional personnel and services.
Grant funding, due to its non-guaranteed nature, is not included in our budgetary figures provided above.
Q. How much of that will account for your budget, and is that up or down from the previous year?
Public Safety Sales Tax:
A significant amount of this cost ($2,369,342 in fiscal year 2021-2022) is related to debt service payments for capital improvement projects that benefit citywide public safety-related services, such as our new radio communications system and the future Emergency Operations/Communications Center.
No change. The proposed $30,505 is established through state law and is required to be allocated to training and employee development activities.
Seizures and Restitution:
The FYE22 proposed budget does not include any funding from this source. The needs of our agency traditionally funded through these resources have continued to be largely managed by locating other limited city resources.
Q. What steps does your department take besides grants to reap savings in ongoing or completed projects?
The police department has continued to evaluate and deploy technological advances to provide increased customer service, improve community safety and reduce costs.
We also continue to seek options for retention of employees, whose hiring and training is very expensive and time consuming. Additionally, we constantly evaluate methods of managing employee overtime to reduce when possible.
Q. What is something about your department and the city budget that you wish the public knew?The police department provides around-the-clock citywide emergency response and 911 services every day of the year. In addition to direct law enforcement services, the department’s services and staff include all emergency communications, maintenance and operation of the citywide radio system, animal welfare services, animal shelter operations and parking services enforcement.
A portion of our overtime costs results from supporting community special events, traffic enforcement and education and school activities. A portion of these costs are reimbursed to the City of Norman by the University of Oklahoma, Norman Public Schools and a variety of state and federal grants.
Our agency strives to provide the citizens and guests of the City of Norman with the highest quality law enforcement services possible. We continue to elevate and update our processes in an effort to promote community engagement, improved services and increased safety for all.