WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – The City of Wilmington unanimously approved the Fiscal Year 20-21 budget at the second reading Tuesday for budget adoption.
From the steps of Wilmington City Hall to the streets of cities across the United States, the cry “Defund the police!” is being repeated by protesters in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
For many cities, including Wilmington, police departments make up the largest portion of an annual budget.
Public Safety, which encompasses both police and fire in Wilmington, makes up 48 percent of the city’s annual expenditures from the general or main fund.
In this budget, the Wilmington Police Department is allotted $35,835,622 — a 1.9 percent reduction from Fiscal Year 19-20.
Like all departments, the budget for the police department is submitted by staff, adjusted by the city manager’s office and then approved by city council.
Police originally asked for about $5 million more than they are receiving, with the city budget document indicating what was not funded: additional police officers to cover the northern downtown district, additional cyber security measures and the southeast police station.
“There’s a lot of different things that they’re looking for and asking for,” Mayor Bill Saffo said, “and we evaluate that, we sit down with our city manager and our budget director and with the chief and to talk about their specific needs and what’s important to them, and we prioritize that. So I think that the budget that we’ve adopted is a good budget, and I think it fulfills the mission of the police department.”
Saffo said they recognize the reasons behind why many across the country are calling for major police reform, but said he stands behind the budget on the table this year.
“Our big issue is that we as a community, we’re popular area in a popular city and it’s a growing city. We have a lot of people coming into the into this community. So we have about 179,000 calls for service every single year,” he said.
However, he said the city council is open to discussions about how things could be done better, including the application of financial resources.
“I think that the budget that we’ve adopted is a good budget, and I think it fulfills the mission of the police department, but more importantly, I think going forward we’ll see probably much more money going into education and talking to the public and making sure that we have community meetings so the public understands exactly what we are doing. Because the last thing we want to do is being involved in an incident like we saw happen in Minneapolis,” he said.
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