The San Luis Obispo City Council approved the 2021-23 financial plan at a meeting June 1. It includes an expansion of the city’s police budget, which has raised concern among some members of the community.
The two-year financial plan totals $173 million. The money is divided between a general fund, water, sewer, parking, transit and special revenue.
As a part of the general fund, the city’s police department is seeing a $1.3 million increase in the first year and another $1 million dollar increase in the second year. This will bring the police department’s budget up to $20 million by 2023.
Members of the public called into the meeting to oppose the increase amid a nationwide push to defund the police.
David McCullough was one of many who suggested a different use of the funds.
“I believe that we reallocate some of the funding and use it for low income housing and mental health services,” McCullough said. “I believe we can do much better than giving only three percent of the budget to address homelessness.”
San Luis Obispo Police Chief Rick Scott said 93 percent of the department’s budget is for salaries and benefits for personnel.
Scott said the police budget has gone up about 1.8 percent each year over the last 10 years. He called those increases fiscally responsible.
“Some of that has caught up,” Scott said. “Unfortunately, now we have to increase some of the salaries to make sure that we stay competitive and that we have top quality officers out there doing the job that we expect them to do to deliver exemplary services.”
Scott said part of the department’s budget supports homelessness solutions and mental health services. He said the increase in the department’s budget will help them hire a social worker and records technician.
“I understand the comments from our community and I know that there are other calls across the nation to support some defund initiatives,” Scott said. “I don’t know what the future looks like here. We have some very exciting programs that we’re hoping to try in the future.”
Calls to defund the police began escalating last year during protests over the murder of George Floyd. The aim is to reallocate police funding to non-policing forms of public safety like social services, housing and healthcare.
You can view San Luis Obispo’s full 2021-23 financial plan on the city’s website.