At first, Mayor Michael Villa said he was upset with the deal that Police Chief Greg Culick and the common council agreed on to keep the deputy chief position, as well as a second, yet-to-be-hired dispatcher position. The deal went contrary to his proposal to eliminate both positions and allow the current deputy chief, Victor Hugo, to take a still vacant and lower paying lieutenant’s position.
But then he told me he was “over it” the next day. And I think I can understand why. The deal didn’t restore the cut, it just re-distributed it. Villa’s proposed budget has still been successful in cutting the police department’s budget by approximately $130,000, which is no easy feat.
Throughout the budget review process, the council has been careful to keep the overall tax levy exactly the same as what Villa proposed. The council’s decision to fund the deputy chief and additional dispatcher position came with concessions from Culick to de-fund the vacant lieutenant’s position and make further cuts of his own to make up the difference.
To top it off, the deal actually gets the department closer to Villa’s long-term goal of having four dispatchers in the department within the next four years. Villa’s plan, although it is austere, places the burden on the highest paid officers to work more efficiently, while actually putting more officers on patrol by not requiring them to sit behind the dispatcher’s desk. As long as the administrative work gets done, it’s not a bad plan in my opinion.
Villa stated that it is still his goal to eliminate the deputy chief position, so no one should be surprised to see the line on the chopping block again next year. I also think it’s safe to speculate that Culick sees the writing on the wall in regards to the issue.
For the most part, the council has upheld the mayor’s budget and has only made relatively minor adjustments. A six-figure cut to the police department is big step. How that cut is allocated within the department seems like minor details to me. Villa’s sentiment that he would “probably not” veto the change strikes me as a pragmatic response to a situation that really should already be considered a win for him.