The Bend Police Department has its share of financial challenges these days, and one way it hopes to resolve them is to bring in more money for some of the services it provides. Thus it will begin charging organizers of public events for some of the cost of policing those gatherings.
It’s a move that makes sense.
Bend’s general fund supplies most of the money for public safety services — police and fire — within the city, and roughly 80 percent of the fund goes to those two agencies. With the collapse of the housing market in 2008, the city saw property values drop and thus property tax collections slow dramatically. In fact, the growth in general fund revenues has been unable to keep up with the cost of providing police and fire services.
The result is that while the city’s population has grown to about 79,000, it has fewer police officers today than it did in 2006, when its population was in the mid 60,000s. Nor is it a problem that can be fixed overnight. The city will add at least two new police officers in the coming two-year budget period, but that will still leave it one person short of 2006 levels.
All of which adds up to the need to make police department dollars go as far as possible. One way to do that is to charge for such things as crowd control at public events, and that’s just what the department plans to do.
What the city won’t do is charge if police at those events are working their regular shifts. Nor are event sponsors required to use city police if events have no impact on the public right-of-way or traffic. Instead, sponsors will be asked to pick up the cost of overtime for officers who must come in on their days off to work at events that close streets and the like.
Instead, sponsors will be asked to pick up the cost of overtime for officers who must come in on their days off to work.
Overtime pay cost the department more than $500,000 in 2012, a noticeable chunk of the roughly $14 million it spent on personnel costs. Not all of that money went to staffing for special events, of course.
The shift will make it a little more expensive to stage such things as the Cascade Cycling Classic. But if the city is to spend its money wisely, it must ensure that special events are not a drain on police coffers. This change will help accomplish that.