REDMOND — The Redmond City Council decided to spend more time addressing a public safety fee that would bring more officers to the city’s police department.
When faced with several options and a looming deadline to put a measure on the May ballot, the council decided Tuesday to wait until the general election in November. For now, city staff will prioritize public safety in the budget talks for fiscal year 2018-2019 while also continuing a public outreach campaign of informing the community.
The council echoed the sentiment that there is no question about the need for more officers in Redmond.
“We have to align our priorities with our resources,” said Councilor Jon Bullock. “We have to find a way to fund those six officers.”
A $6 public safety fee was pitched to the council in September as a way to fund six additional officers in Redmond.
The fee would bring the current staffing ratio of 1.3 officers per 1,000 residents to 1.67 officers per 1,000 residents.
The increase in staff would allow the Redmond Police Department to establish its own drug enforcement team, increase the size of daily patrol teams on duty from 3.2 officers to 4.4, help reduce traffic violations and accidents and institute a downtown foot patrol.
The fee would be tacked on to residents’ utility bills but was met with public scrutiny during a series of town hall meetings and work sessions.
City Manager Keith Witcosky presented the final results of surveys and community feedback at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Seven options were discussed by the council.
About 250 people responded to requests for feedback or were involved in the town hall meetings. Redmond has nearly 20,000 registered voters.
Another option would have the council vote to approve the fee, though the council agreed unanimously that it wanted Redmond voters to make the decision.
“May feels too rushed to me,” said Councilor Camden King. “We know we need boots on the ground. It’s not if, it’s how. I’d like us to do a little more homework and maybe even bring a more palatable service fee to the voters. I think that is the ideal way to do it.”
City staffers have been told to find space in next year’s budget for the funding for as many officers as possible, with Bullock hopeful for all six officers to be funded to “bridge the gap,” until city staff can get something in front of voters, he said.
Mayor George Endicott took a more conservative approach of only funding three officers.
The funding for the officers would have to come from the general fund, which includes money for transportation and parks, both of which are too important to the community, Endicott said.
One other trade-off of adding six officers to the budget would deplete the general fund after a five-year period.
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