Wichita City Council approves 2021 budget, includes slight increase for police
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - It was an at times tense Wichita City Council meeting Tuesday at Century II as the elected city leaders approved the proposed 2021 budget. The council and members of the community spent nearly five hours discussing where city money should be spent.
Making the decisions all the more difficult is that the COVID-19 pandemic left the city with a projected $17 million shortfall for next year. The budget totals $630 million.
Tuesday, Wichitans who provided public comment on the plan were largely conrened with the funding for the Wichita Police Department. The feedback came down to two positions: those who wanted no changes, or even an increase in the police department’s budget and thos who wanted to see money for police redisstributed to support social services.
Ahead of Tuesday’s Wichita City Council meeting, a group gathered outside Century II to “Back our Blue.” Those gathered for the cause shared a common desire for the city: keep the Wichita Police Department’s funding intact.
“To show (Wichita police), we do support them. We have your back, we’ve got your six, and (to) let them know that we’re here for them,” Back our Blue organizer Jessica Pereira said.
Inside Century II, as the meeting was called to order, a group called World Justice Now rallied support for another cause, shifting funds from the WPD’s budget to social services.
In all, 52 people spoke on the city’s budget proposal, largely focused on the issues of police funding. In the 2021 budget, the WPD is allocated about $99 million, up nearly $6 million from this year. The increase is to create a central patrol bureau to address downtown crime, new staff, and community police efforts.
The Wichita City Council Tuesday voted to move forward with those recommendations and the budget as a whole.
In addition to considerations with the WPD, several at Tuesday’s Wichita City Council meeting spoke out against plans to privatize the operation of Century II, which the city said would save more than $2 million. Also, most of the $400,000 in proposed cuts to Animal Control services was eliminated in the approved budget. While the council did give approval to next year’s budget it can make changes as needed throughout the year.
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