Cops & Firemen get 70% of Phoenix budget

  Do we live in a police state?

Cops and firemen get 70% of Phoenix budget. Cops get about two thirds of that making the police share of the Phoenix budget 45%.

You answer the question. Do we live in a police state?

70% of Phoenix budget goes to cops and firemen. The article didn't point it out but the police get about two thirds of the money shared with the firemen. Meaning cops get about 45 percent of the total Phoenix budget. In both the police and fire budgets most of the money goes to pay the salaries of cops and firemen.


Phoenix's spending on police, fire ranks high nationally

Among highest in nation

by Michael Clancy - Feb. 28, 2010 12:00 AM

The Arizona Republic

The proportion of Phoenix's general-fund budget devoted to public safety may be among the highest in the nation at around 70 percent.

But for the first time in several years, cuts are being required to the police and fire departments and other public-safety functions because their continued growth is threatening other city functions.

City officials and experts on public safety and budgeting say those departments' budgets are high because the public wants it that way. [Not really. I have never seen citizens demanding photo radar cops. It is the police and firemen unions that demand pork for cops]

Comparisons with other cities show that no two municipal budgets are the same. Some officials say Phoenix is not out of line with other similar cities.

"It seems that we are not way out of range of a San Antonio or a Dallas," said Councilman Claude Mattox, who chairs a council subcommittee on public safety. [Phoenix like most cities spends most of its budget on cops and firemen]

Last year, public-safety budgets in those cities were in the low 60 percent range of their general funds, compared with Phoenix at 68 percent.

"No council member in my 10 years has said 'Hold on,'" he said. "The public continues to tell us this is the Number 1 priority." [That is a lie! The police & fire unions are the ones demanding money for cops and firemen]

Comparisons with other cities may not be useful, Mattox said. [Because it will point out most of our tax dollars go to law enforcement pork]

The items cities cover with general-fund budgets vary widely. New York and Chicago may include public schools or health care for the poor, for example.

Public-safety budgets can vary widely as well. Some cities may include transit and airport police. Philadelphia includes a jail system.

Still, public safety's share of the Phoenix budget reached a point this year where the city has had no choice but to make cuts.

"If you have to make cuts, there is no way to exempt those budgets," said Assistant City Manager Ed Zuercher, who works closely with the public-safety departments and their budgets. "It would be almost impossible to maintain those budgets without significant cuts elsewhere."

The public-safety budget has grown 20 percent in the past 20 years, from almost 50 percent to more than 70 percent if current proposals pass the City Council and Phoenix Law Enforcement Association accepts pay cuts.

Phil Richards, a financial consultant who served as a volunteer on the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board for several years, said public safety "has a stranglehold on the budget."

"We can't continue to live with this," he argued, pointing out that other city programs are suffering. "We need to share the burden of the economy."

Richards, who has made the argument at public budget hearings for two years, said he fears that when the economy recovers, public safety will be restored at the expense of other departments, growing even larger.

Indeed, when proposed budget cuts were reduced because of increased revenue from the grocery tax, public safety got 66 percent of those funds. When employee concessions were factored in, public safety got 57 percent - the amount of police-union pay cuts, assuming the union reaches agreement with the city.

Even though the totals will be down, the percentage continues to grow, from 68 percent this time last year to 71.4 percent when grocery-tax money is factored in, to possibly even higher once employee concessions are added.

Mattox acknowledges that with crime down, people can be overly apprehensive about their safety. [Most of the arrests make are not for real crimes, but for victimless drug war crimes. Two thirds of the arrests are for drug war crimes]

"People are more fearful than they need to be," Mattox said. "In general, people are safe in Phoenix, and the police and fire departments are doing a great job."

He said crime has declined by as much as 40 percent in some categories.

Zuercher said police budgeting has a lot to do with crime rates, geography and population density. Phoenix is less dense but more spread out than many cities, which affects the size of the police and fire departments.

Zuercher said it can be difficult to gauge whether those departments are using their money efficiently. [Which is why the cops and firemen get away with have such a huge cut of the budget, where their services are not needed]

"You look at crime rates, community satisfaction, and ratio of officers to citizens," he said. "But public safety is not a widget, it's a service, a public good."

Scott Decker, director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University, said Phoenix has other oddities that stand out. Those are a low ratio of public-safety officers to citizens, a low number per square mile and, like other cities in the West, a relatively small government. As a result, the public-safety budget appears out of whack - even though it may not be.

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, explained that Phoenix may have fewer sworn officers because some police jobs have been moved to the civilian side of the force, where pay scales are less. He added that while every city is different, "public safety always ranks at the very top of what the public expects from government."

Whether Phoenix is spending enough or too much comes back to the City Council, Zuercher said.

"The mayor and council are elected to make these decisions, and that is what they do," he said.

Phoenix's public-safety funding compared with other cities'

Police and fire funding vary widely in the 10 largest cities in the United States, and the reasons vary. Some cities, such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia, have massive budgets compared with Phoenix, mainly because those budgets fund far more items, such as health and education.

In addition, different cities classify different employees as part of the public-safety departments. Philadelphia, for example, includes jails, while other cities count only members of police and fire departments. Below are comparisons based on budgets for 2009-10.

City General-fund budgetPercentage to public safety Public-safety spending per person Public-safety employees per 1,000 residents
New York $61 billion 9.3% $776 6.5
Los Angeles $6.9 billion 39.0% $675 4.5
Chicago $6.1 billion 29.5% $643 6.9
Houston $2.1 billion 59.4% $630 4.0
Phoenix $976 million 68.0% $427 3.3
Philadelphia $3.7 billion 30.0% $733 5.9
San Antonio $885 million 6.1% $379 2.9
Dallas $1 billion 63.0% $485 3.8
San Diego $1.1 billion 52.2% $442 2.3
San Jose $984 million 45.2% $468 2.1


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