City of Center's budget cuts include hit to police department

CENTER, TX (KTRE) - The City of Center voted to amend their 2014 budget in a regularly scheduled city council meeting this past Monday.

The city proposed almost $87,000 be cut from their utility fund and nearly $250,000 from their general fund, with 102,000 of those dollars coming from the police department.

But City Manager Chad Nehring says other departments are losing funding as well.

"There were several reductions in city hall and general government administrative staff, there were reductions in the street department, there was elimination of some services including the recycling program and minimizing street sweeping operations," Nehring said. "The utility department is also losing a couple of positions."

The reduction in force was concerning enough for the Texas Municipal Police Association to send out a press release encouraging citizens to support their center police officers.

A representative from the Texas Municipal Police Association who was at that city council meeting Monday said he was surprised with how quickly the city wrapped up that meeting. He says it was over and done in under 10 minutes. He also said he felt like the city had already made up their mind and his questions and concerns really didn't matter to them.

These changes have some residents concerned.

"I feel like they have dropped the ball bad on the citizens of Center," resident Tammy Lewis said. "We need our police officers."

"The city has spent other foolish money," she said. "They've built sidewalk. They've built a water park but they can't afford to pay our police officers."

Two of the police positions proposed in the cut were paid for by grant money and the city says the reduction in personnel is necessary because revenue is down.

But the city says the police chief already has a plan in the works

"They're going to be able to adjust shift schedules and duty assignments back to the standard that was in 2009 and should see minimal impacts on overall response and officers on patrol," Nehring said.

The proposed budget and nearly every line item is projected to take a cut, although the police department is taking the largest decrease.

There was also a $54,000 proposed reduction in city hall salaries as well.

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