Iowa City is budgeting more than $16 million to fund its police department this fiscal year, while contributing one-million-dollars to support affordable housing.

City Council member Laura Bergus proposes a shift in spending, as she says there’s a disconnect between what the city purports to value and what it actually pays for each year. “And yet if you listen to the council or talk to people in the community, affordable housing is one of the highest priorities for us and for the community,” Bergus says. “So our investment isn’t necessarily matching that and that’s what I’m talking about and shifting funds.”

Iowa City has 78 police officers. Rather than filling vacant positions, Bergus proposes the city reallocate funding to programing that prevents crime, rather than dealing with it after the fact.  She says, “When I know that we’re in one of the tightest budget years that we’ve had in a very, very long time, I want to be looking at are we, you know, maximizing the use of those funds for the safety of our community?”

Instead of increasing the police department budget by 6% as planned, Bergus suggests devoting that one million dollars to affordable housing or toward helping victims of crime. City finances are tight for the upcoming fiscal year due to a state accounting error that’s caused major losses to local property tax revenue.

The Iowa City City Council will vote on the budget at its March 21st meeting.

(By Zachary Oren Smith, Iowa Public Radio)

Radio Iowa