Police Department eyeing up city budget surplus

The city’s money man, Kevin Carpenter, says he’s not quite finished tallying up 2011 budget numbers, but there is likely a “significant” surplus of dollars for the City Council to decide what to do with this year.

Carpenter, the Minneapolis chief financial officer, told a city panel today that he’s given department heads until Feb. 17 to put in requests for unused funds. He said the city could also opt to put the unused money into reserves.

Already, the Minneapolis Police Department is hoping to get its hands on $400,000 in order to hire back about eight community service officers that would be guaranteed jobs in 2013.

Those officers are already fully trained and the city has spent about $26,000 on each for college tuition and uniforms.

Police brass say it would be unwise to let those officers sit unemployed. Some of the officers already have applied for jobs with other municipal police departments. A part-time job as a CSO through 2012 promises the young officers a job in 2013 and keeps them away from other departments.

“That’s a lot of investment walking out the door,” Police Chief Tim Dolan told the city’s Public Safety Civil Rights and Health Committee.

Further, the group is highly diverse: the Police Department would be able to hire from a pool that includes four Somali officers and three female officers, said Assistant Chief Janeé Harteau.

Council President Barb Johnson said the pool of diverse candidates across government is slim, and it would be unwise to lose good prospects who are already in the city’s workforce pipeline.

Council Member Betsy Hodges (Ward 13) was unhappy about the Police Department’s request. The chair of the city’s budget committee, Hodges said she was not notified of the proposal by the Police Department and since the city was still finalizing the 2011 budget report, it was too early to commit unused funds.

The committee voted 4-0 to recommend the request and move it to the Ways and Means/Budget Committee. Hodges abstained. 

The Police Department has been praised by the City Council in the past couple years for prudent spending. Carpenter said he had not yet tallied how much the department was under budget in 2011. 

The Police Department anticipates, based on historic data, that 25 sworn officers will retire in 2013 and that 30 will retire in each 2014 and 2015.

About 127 of the city’s 849 sworn officers are over 50. Officers receive full retirement after age 55.