Kansas City police might need to ground their helicopters, lose 54 officer positions and force week-long unpaid furloughs to deal with looming budget cuts, Chief Jim Corwin said Tuesday.
Police also are considering freezing civilian hiring, which would leave 41 positions vacant. And they could eliminate $1 million in overtime pay — equal to losing work conducted by 36 patrol officers over the course of a year, police said.
Those cuts, plus some benefits cuts and other belt-tightening, would close $10.5 million of the funding gap police face.
Although Corwin shared the list of possible program cuts with a Star reporter Tuesday, he said he had not agreed to any of them. Instead, he said, he and his staff are exploring what millions of dollars in cuts would mean for the department.
“These are not scare tactics,” Corwin said. “This is reality. This is a snapshot of what $10 million means to the police department.”
Keeping the current number of officers on the street would be impossible, Corwin said.
“When you’re talking about that much money, you don’t have a choice,” he said.
Finance Committee Chairwoman Deb Hermann said she was “deeply saddened and disappointed” that Corwin had taken his budget complaints to the media, using “scare tactics” instead of working collaboratively with the council on solutions.
“The City Council is absolutely committed to not removing officers from the street,” Hermann said.
If that means the council has to go back in, once the budget is adopted, and cut elsewhere to assist the police, the council will do that, as it has done in past years, Hermann said.
Police officials, however, said they need to craft a balanced budget and can’t gamble on uncommitted funds.
Police expect to begin determining actual cuts once the City Council approves the budget on Thursday, Corwin said.
City council members are considering giving police $12 million less than the amount received in the current budget year. City officials have said they believe grant money and savings from consolidations could make up some of the funding gap. But police said they will see no savings from consolidations and that the city is overestimating grant money.
One grant for Jackson County law enforcement agencies is $3.6 million but must be split among eight agencies. Other grants being considered have not even distributed their guidelines yet.
“I don’t see it being the panacea that some people see it being,” police Major David Zimmerman said.
The list of cuts police are considering includes laying off the current academy class of 31 police officer recruits to save $1.3 million and offering buyouts to employees eligible for retirement to save $575,000. Police also are considering not hiring new officers to replace any others who leave, a savings of about $500,000.
•Lay off 31 police academy recruits: $1.3 million
•Mandatory week-long furloughs for all employees: $2.6 million
•Freeze civilian hiring: $1.6 million
•Ground police helicopters: $412,134