LAWRENCE, Ind. — Tensions were high during Tuesday night’s city council meeting in Lawrence. Some city leaders raised concerns about a budget proposal that could result in cuts for the police and fire departments.
On Tuesday, members of the Lawrence Police Department and fire department, as well as several residents, made emotional pleas to put an end to the amended budget from the Lawrence Common Council.
According to the police department, the council’s proposal would result in the loss of nine police officers, 11 firefighters, and three telecommunications workers. In addition, police would lose money for body-worn cameras. Lawrence Mayor Steve Collier presented his version of the budget in September, but the council president Lisa Chavis says there was a lack of transparency from city leaders.
“We have a responsibility to ask questions. There were a lot of budget items that were in categories called other. There were millions of dollars that needed to be put in the appropriate budget line. If it’s for equipment then put it in equipment,” said Chavis.
Chavis says City Controller Tyler Douthit didn’t give the department heads the opportunity to explain to the council what some budget items were for. She adds that they aren’t trying to defund the police like some community members are claiming are the council’s intentions. “Had they done that like they’ve done six years previous, we would have approved and made those changes to those budget lines to put them in their proper funding source. They didn’t do that because their controller shut down the process,” said Chavis
Collier says there’s been tension between the city’s controller and council members.
“I want you to think about one thing. So, she’s going to cut an entire city’s budget based upon a personality issue conflict between her and the controller, just think about that for a while. Secondly, any question that they could have conceivably asked was available in our proposed budget that we handed out back on Labor Day,” Collier said.
Douthit was present, but he did not come forward to comment during the meeting.
The budget appropriation process is supposed to be discussed at upcoming meetings.