Budget Amendment Sparks Controversy

The proposal looks to move money from the general fund that goes to the police department to support affordable housing, and replace that police funding with dollars from the public safety income tax fund. The amendment specifically spells out that it is not intended to reduce funding to the police department.

Posted: Sep 14, 2020 10:44 PM
Updated: Sep 14, 2020 10:45 PM

There is some promising news, as COVID-19 pickpockets city budgets, including Evansville's.

Funding for the river city's biggest organizations is moving one way or another, and affordable housing is in need of a lifeline.

But to do that under one approach, $250,000 will be need to be moved from the police department's regular source of funding.

City Council President Alex Burton declined to withdraw his amendment during Monday's contentious city council meeting, where the proposal came under repeated attack.

That proposal specifically spells out that it's not intended to reduce funding to the police department.

"When we talk about moving funds, it happens in the realm of government. It's happened on council many of times," Burton explained.

Nevertheless, the amendment to the budget from Burton is sparking a big pushback: the proposal to shuffle around general fund money originally earmarked for police to affordable housing attracted outcry from the public.

"It's up to you to stand up for the people of Evansville and socialism is not what we want," Melanie McDowell told the councilmembers during the meeting.

But some support it.

"We need funding for both. We ask your support to fund these community concerns," said Pastor Floyd Edwards.

The amendment looks to reduce the Evansville Police budget that originally comes from the general fund by $250,000, and move that to the affordable housing trust fund. Then take $250,000 from the public safety local income tax that isn't allocated, and use it to fill the gap in the police department's budget.

The intent being that EPD itself will ultimately see no reduction in funding.

"There is a separate bucket of public safety local income tax dollars, that often basically sits there, and is something that can be drawn from to fund the budget," explained city attorney Joshua Claybourn. "Public safety budget goes down, and the fund goes down, but the budget for the police stays the same."

But the meeting quickly turned into a way for those gathered to express their support for officers.

"I feel like all across our country, people are taking the opportunity to make a statement, and put police down, and I don't think Evansville should follow that trend," said Alice Work.

Opposition also came from the head of the Fraternal Order of Police, who pushed for more money to purchase equipment for officers:

"We are short on money. We do not buy ammo because of being short on money. What we do in place of it is, I shoot a plastic gun at a video game. And that is my training once a quarter," recounted FOP president D.J. Thompson

This was just the first reading for the amendment.

It'll need to have a second reading before a vote.

The next city council meeting is set for September 28th

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