Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Study: Topeka on Higher End of Public Safety Spending

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Study: Topeka on Higher End of Public Safety Spending

Article excerpt

A resource allocation study released to the council and public Tuesday night is meant as a starting point for decisions that could be five years down the road.

"We live in a society and time of highly limited resources," said city manager Jim Colson. "The objective we put forward was to bring back a study that really was nothing more than a starting point."

The study, which compares Topeka's police and fire departments to 17 other cities, shows Topeka on the higher end of the averages, including the cost and number of public safety employees per resident. However, officials who worked on the study said that shouldn't be interpreted as a bad thing.

"I hope seriously that the newspaper doesn't get all blown up and blow this out of proportion," said consultant Arnold Gordon, who worked on the study. "It's not intended to say Topeka is bad or Topeka is wrong. It's only where we are today."

Colson indicated the next step with the study is to meet with the departments to determine what it means for them. He said the study and those discussions would come back to the council eventually.

"To understand that there's not a lot of potential politics associated with this type of project would not be understanding of the world that we live in," he said.

The study began last budget session on a request to investigate how efficiently Topeka spends its general fund dollars toward public safety and public works. The three departments make up 78 percent of the general fund.

Although the study also started in response to reports that the Topeka Fire Department was inappropriately paying fire chiefs overtime, nothing in the resource allocation study directly addresses wage comparisons.

Overtime to battalion chiefs and shift commanders ended effective Nov. 9 after 12 years of the practice, which skirted federal fair labor standards.

Since then, the department's nine battalion chiefs and shift commanders have been paid 6.5 hours on each pay period in what is referred to in the industry as a Kelly Day. …

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