Lakewood City Manager Andrew Neiditz announced Monday night that the city will have to trim its budget another $500,000 this year.
That’s about 1.5 percent of Lakewood’s $37 million budget, and it comes as cities across the South Sound are reducing expenses in the tough economy. Staff is proposing to eliminate two positions – one in the administrative and the other in the community development department — and make other reductions in expenses.
But staff also proposes to stagger the timeline to fill the positions of the four Lakewood police officers who were gunned down in a Parkland coffee shop Nov. 29.
The original plan was to hire someone for all four positions by the end of the first quarter of this year. Instead, Neiditz proposes to hire two positions at the end of the first quarter, then hire the other two at the end of the third quarter.
The move — which means the city won’t have to pay for training and other expenses related to hiring a new officer — is expected to save $175,000.
Councilman Walter Neary said the move makes financial sense and is logical, but it’s still difficult to accept. The four vacancies are “sensitive positions,” and the city did not create them, he added.
“That guy,” said Neary, referring to shooter Maurice Clemmons, “should not succeed in depriving our people of police. Period.”
Neiditz said he and Police Chief Bret Farrar agreed that it would be better to stagger the hiring dates rather than hiring all four positions at one time, then later realizing that there’s no money to pay for them.