YUMA, Ariz. - Public safety officers in Yuma are feeling the effects of the 2016 Election after Proposition 206 passed and Proposition 407 did not. This, in addition to other costs implemented by the state of Arizona, according to officials.
"We're not like the federal government, we can't print money," states Yuma City Administrator Greg Wilkinson. "We cannot go into next year in the red because it will really make next year even more difficult then it's already going to be, so we need to make some midyear adjustments to keep us within budget."
Although the new minimum wage law will not heavily impact Yuma Police, the department says it receives funds from the same pool as the Yuma Fire Department and Parks and Recreation—in turn making that pool smaller and also making the Yuma Police Department supplement the funds it could have received had Proposition 407 passed.
"407 was aimed at public safety—fire, police, and also our roadways," explains Yuma Police Chief John Lekan. "That was a big impact to our future plans and continuing the sustainability of our service model that we believe our community has grown accustomed to."
To maintain that service model, the department says it will have to reprioritize some of its future plans.
"We were looking at the implementation of body worn cameras," shares Chief Lekan. "That is not off the table yet, but again, that is one of those programs that if necessary we're going to probably have to cut because again... sustainability issues."
The department says it presented a plan to the Yuma City Council that would cut nine existing police officer positions, but would ensure that the cut would not affect its response to emergency 911 calls and that it would not leave nine officers without a job.
"We want to keep our patrol squad and our officers in uniform driving those marked vehicles out available," explains Chief Lekan. "The programs that we're looking at are more discretionary."
The upcoming budget is affecting the Yuma Fire Department as well—reducing its minimum staffing by three firefighters and shutting down a fire engine—and the City Administrator says these cuts are unavoidable as the city was projected to go over budget.
"The existing plan and some of the things we have to do... I don't like," explains Wilkinson. "The police department, we haven't done any cutting in services yet. However, we have kind of put a hold, a freeze, on hiring for both fire and police until we get into July 1. But there's really no way out of it until we figure out what level of service we can afford to provide with the funding that we have."
The Yuma Police Department says it recently hired three new officers and could potentially hire two more from a local academy, but after that, the freeze will be in effect until at least July 1.
Police Chief Lekan also says that changes will not be made without notifying the community first. City Administrator Wilkinson says although the new budget begins July 1, the city will be consistently evaluating the effects of the changes to ensure they are not only efficient, but don't negatively impact public safety in Yuma.