Photo: Danny Zaragoza /Laredo Morning Times
Laredo City Council on Wednesday heard the budget presentations for the city’s two largest departments — police and fire — and held true to their goal from the day before, making no substantive changes to either.
Police Chief Claudio Treviño asked council to approve a staffing change from 10 nine-month contractual employees — clerks and custodians — to five full-time employees, which council approved. This did not affect their budget, costing $227,000 either way.
He also requested $3.5 million to purchase 46 patrol cars and 11 unmarked vehicles, which would have thrown the budget out of balance. Rather than try to find a revenue source, council voted to postpone this acquisition for six months and see how the economy is faring then.
So as a whole, the Police Department’s $75.5 million budget abides. Treviño noted that 91% of this budget, $68.8 million, is allocated for personnel. They employ 515 officers and 99 civilian workers.
Council came close to adding a $1.3 million ambulance to the Fire Department’s $57 million budget, but Interim Chief Ramiro Elizondo noted that they do not have the personnel to justify this purchase.
Councilwoman Nelly Vielma argued that there was a large area of north Laredo that is not as well-covered by EMS as is other parts of the city. There are trained paramedics who work in code enforcement who she though could be moved to man this new ambulance.
But Elizondo maintained that he’s down in staff, and moving people to work a new ambulance would mean overtime for the rest of the department.
And Budget Director Gilberto Sanchez noted that additional staff is a reoccurring cost, which would need to be supported by reoccurring revenue, such as an increased property tax rate.
Council subsequently shied away from the request, and passed Vielma’s motion for management to look into reallocating ambulance coverage from another area of the city to District V.
Julia Wallace may be reached at 956-728-2543 or firstname.lastname@example.org