Shreveport is spending $6 million dollars above projected revenues in 2019 and that's the reason the reserve fund has been drained. That's a serious issue for a municipality.
The Shreveport Council approved a $7 monthly trash fee as a way to shore up the budget. The $5 million generated from that fee will free up money in the general fund to beef back up the reserves.
But I've been doing some digging to see if there are other areas we should take a close look at and I found something that might surprise you.
During a City Council meeting on January 23, 1990, Chief Administrative Officer Judy Purgerson told the Council the city has 500 police and firefighters combined. That's 500 total. Not 500 each. I am checking that number because I am told the city actually had 430 police officers in 1990. That would leave only 70 slots for firefighters and that can not be accurate. But I will have the numbers by year very soon.
How have the numbers changed since 1990? I have learned we have about 1100 police and firefighters today. Not all of the positions are filled. But we have budgeted for 1100. How did this number grow so much. Do we really need 1100 police and firefighters?
This expansion of our public safety departments comes at a time when our population continues to fall and the calls for service goes down. In 1990 Shreveport had a population of 198 525. That grew to 200,145 in 2000 and then the numbers started falling each year. The population of Shreveport was 199,311 as of the 2010 U.S. Census.
We caught up with Police Chief Ben Raymond to ask him about the staffing increases over the years.
While the Chief says crime numbers have dropped dramatically since 1990 and he credits the decrease to the rise in police numbers, do we really need double the staff? Do we have some waste in the Police Department? Could more officers be on patrol? When you talk to beat cops, they will tell you (anonymously) that we do not have enough officers riding the streets. We have also been told you can regularly see high ranking officers hanging out at the police station "shooting the breeze". Chief Raymond says he wants to know about that because there should be no officers on the force who have idle time.
Another thing we must consider is that our city's boundaries have expanded over time. We now have 107 square miles. That's up from 103 square miles in 2000. We also have several new fire stations around the city that need to be staffed around the clock. That is another factor in tallying up the higher numbers.
I would suggest we look at police and fire staffing numbers and find out if we can do better. We have fewer residents. Wouldn't it make sense to at least take a look at these numbers? I know it's not popular to talk about trimming numbers from these forces. But if we all want the best for our city we should be willing to look at so called "sacred cows". The bulk of our city budget is spent on salaries and more than half of what the city spends is in public safety.
We should all want to know if we can do better and not be afraid of a shakeup if that is what's in the best interest of all of us.