LAFAYETTE -- The City Council finalized more than a half-million dollars in budget reductions this week, despite pleas from some residents to spare the police department from the cuts.
The reductions are aimed at closing a budget gap that staff members estimate could grow to $535,000 over the next five years.
The cuts include reducing the city's police and planning staff and ending the city's contribution to downtown improvements, such as decorative lighting, and programs such as the popular Art and Wine Festival.
The city also would adjust its recreation and facility fees and reduce a number of administrative costs.
The police and planning changes, as well as the elimination of custom letterhead, will go into effect right away. The remaining cuts will be implemented as part of the 2011-12 budget.
Altogether, they will trim the city's expenses by $547,000 each year.
The bulk of that comes from eliminating the city's K-9 police officer, saving $225,000 annually. The city plans to purchase two motorcycles to increase traffic enforcement.
A majority of the K-9 officer calls are from outside Lafayette, according to staff members. However, that number only applies to the dog itself, said Traci Reilly, chairwoman of the city's Crime Prevention Commission.
The officer associated with the dog spends most of his time within the city, she said, and "to put ourselves in a situation where we are not being properly patrolled
Other residents also asked the council to reconsider the police reductions.
Cutting police staff is difficult, council members acknowledged. But with the department accounting for 40 percent of the budget, Councilman Don Tatzin said, "it's a prudent thing to try."
Council members also noted that they can increase police staffing again once the city's financial picture improves.
Criticism of the cuts frustrated Councilman Mike Anderson.
"What I find difficult is that we were hammered by people in the last (budget) cycle to do more cutting and reduce our costs, and as we do it, we get resistance," he said.
The city will also work with the Chamber of Commerce to find alternate ways to fund downtown improvements and programs.
Contact Jonathan Morales at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/sosaysjonathan.