LIMA — A deepening budget crisis brought by the coronavirus pandemic will see the number of city employees decreased by 30 to 40 positions, Lima Mayor David Berger told The Lima News.
“That’s going to affect all departments. It is affecting all departments right now. So, we’re going to struggle for the next year to a year and a half with all the demands that are on just because we’re going to be shrinking overall,” Berger said.
Due to setbacks in tax filing deadlines, the city is still unaware of how much tax income revenue will decrease this year due to the economic slowdown. State and federal governments have also signaled a hesitancy to help Ohio’s municipal governments with their expected decreases in revenues.
To dull the blow to city budgets, Berger said the administration is currently focusing on voluntary early retirements.
The mayor noted that any cuts to Lima’s safety service budgets shouldn’t be confused with the calls for “de-funding” that some national activists are seeking.
“Frankly, I have always said that our safety services are our highest priority,” Berger said. “We have always acted on that. People need to feel that we have high quality police and fire services. And that remains my commitment. There is lots to be done, but the idea of de-funding police is, in my view, ridiculous.”
Berger announced the administration’s intention to tackle the issue of systemic racism in a call-to-action statement released to the community back on June 3. In it, Lima’s mayor laid out four regional initiatives to make headway against racist practices, which included diversifying board representation, reinstating the city’s Human Relations Commission, making hiring changes to increase the diversification of company work forces and encouraging multiple outside police forces to adopt the use of body cameras.
In line with the body camera initiative, Berger argued that making the right changes to policing may require additional funding in order to deliver better service overall. To equip Lima Police Department officer’s with body cameras, the city spent just under $500,000.
“I just think that (de-funding) is a non-starter. We’re going to do more, we’re not going to do less,” Berger said. “There are people who harm other people. And that can’t be taken care of without a police force that in fact is engaged and committed to professional standards and a community focus.”
Other facets of the national conversation around policing have focused on the militarization of police forces and the need for additional training in order to effectively de-escalate interactions between police and citizens. Berger said the Lima Police Department has not sought military-grade vehicles, and police officers are required to undergo at least two-weeks of training every year in January after being hired by the city.
Under current Ohio law, police officers require 737 minimum hours of training. After becoming an officer, state law also requires that officers receive 20 additional training hours annually with at least two hours focused on de-escalation.
“(Officers) have got field training that goes on for several months. You don’t just come out of the academy and get turned loose on the street. I mean, it’s several months of training under very direct supervision of the department,” Berger said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.