As the 2017 election nears, I’m seeing all the previous claims by one side of politics about how the City can’t afford anything because the Police Department hogged all the money two budgets ago. Instead of blindly regurgitating what some elected officials and some politically active residents (and some non-residents) have been citing I went to an unbiased data source, the City Budget.
A few months ago I downloaded the previous 5 city budgets and dug into the numbers myself. They are available to the public by going to Simpsonville.com, hovering over the government tab, and then clicking on ‘Budgets & Finances’. Once you’re on that page the budgets are available by clicking on them. I share this resource with you so you can verify the graphs I’ve created here.
The $518,700 increase in the Police Department in the 2015-2016 budget year has been the source of many claims over the past two years. However, there was also an approximate increase of $100k in Administration, $242k in Fire, $138k in Public Works, and $13k in Recreation. Clearly the Police Department did not get ALL the money in the 2015-2016 budget year, although they did get approximately 50% of the increases. It’s long been time to stop blaming the Police Departments budget for every shortcoming in City Services.
And as salacious as some claim that budget increase was for the 2015/2016 for the Police Department – looking at the budgets for a longer history shows a very different story. Every citizen of the City should be concerned with a bigger picture of our budgets and where the money is being spent.
If you look at the 5 year graph history of Department Budgets I’ve created, which Department has the biggest budget? Which Department has ALWAYS had the biggest budget? That’s right, our Fire Department has always been our biggest department, both in staff and budget dollars. Our Police Department is second in budget, Public Works number three, and Administration number four.
And while some have been screaming that the sky is falling for the better part of three years since that Police Department increase, if you look at our budget history over the past five years, you’ll see that two Departments show a more troubling trend for our tax dollars. Spending at the Public Works Department and the Fire Department lead our rate or increase at 38% and 31% over five years. The Police Department comes in at number three with a 23% increase over 5 years. Which department(s) should City residents be concerned about?
Some of our elected officials talk a lot about long term planning, yet I’ve not heard any of them talk about understanding where we’ve been to aid in that planning. Our Fire Department does get a significant contribution from the County for services. But our Public Works and Police Departments don’t service the County. Any increases awarded there is from our tax dollars, and of those two only one department had a significant increase for our current budget. The Police Department was awarded an increase of $4k, and Public Works was awarded an increase of $293,822. Yes, an almost $300k increase for still reduced service.
As you vote in the 2017 Simpsonville election ask yourself if you ‘re happy with the reduction in Public Works services with a corresponding 38% increase in budget over the past 5 years. A previous previous budget is not to blame, our current administration is to blame and you can vote to continue the trend or change the trend. I’m voting to change that trend with votes for Aaron Rupe, Jason Wilmoth, and Blake Whitaker.♦
by Mark Rodeffer