SLO adopts budget, opts not to defund police

BY JOSH FRIEMAN

Despite calls from members of the public to defund the police and shift money into other programs, the city of San Luis Obispo is increasing the SLO Police Department’s budget.

On Tuesday, the San Luis Obispo City Council adopted a two-year financial plan consisting of budgets of approximately $173 million and $174 million for 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 respectively. SLO’s major city goals for the next two years are: economic recovery, resiliency and fiscal sustainability; diversity, equity and inclusion; housing and homelessness; climate action, open space and sustainable transportation.

Within its approximately $100 million per year general fund, the city is budgeting $19.1 million for the San Luis Obispo Police Department in 2021-2022 and $20.1 million for the police department in 2022-2023. In the last budget cycle, police department operations totaled $17.6 million in 2019-2020 and $17.8 million in 2020-2021.

Police department funding accounts for approximately 25% of the operating expenses within the general fund, which is more than any other city department receives. The Public Works Department accounts for the second largest portion of general fund operational expenses, 19%.

One new addition to the police department will be the expansion of the Community Action Team (CAT) to include a second social worker in order to improve public safety and social services in the downtown and creek area. The team currently consists of one officer and one social worker. The city is budgeting $118,688 and $116,188 for the next two years respectively in order to add the second social worker to the CAT.

Meanwhile, the city is embarking upon a pilot program dubbed the Mobile Crisis Unit, which will handle encounters with chronically homeless individuals. The Mobile Crisis Unit will consist of a social worker paired with an emergency medical technician. 

The unit will respond to non-emergency 911 calls involving homeless individuals, which is intended to reduce law enforcement and paramedic encounters. The city has budgeted $300,000 for each of the next two years for the Mobile Crisis Unit. 

City officials say they plan to spend approximately $126 million on capital improvement projects over the next five years. Among potential capital improvement projects the city is considering building a new police station.

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