SIOUX CITY | An undercover police unit that targets drug sales will continue after the City Council on Tuesday rejected a proposal to eliminate the program to save money. Property taxes also will increase under the finalized city spending plan, the first time in four years.
Councilwoman Rhonda Capron during final budget discussions Tuesday said public safety is a priority and should be funded fully.
"We can't keep taking away and taking away and expect the same level of service," she said.
The Police Department proposed eliminating the program, called the Street Level Drug Unit, to save about $324,000.
The City Council has been reviewing city department spending proposals for weeks. The city budget is funded by property taxes, state and federal grants, revenue funds and fees on city services and permits.
Officials from several neighborhood groups opposed cutting the three-person drug unit, which made 91 felony arrests last year. Staff members work with the federal Tri-State Drug Task Force.
The council on Tuesday voted to keep the program and not fill a retiring sergeant’s position in November, saving $110,962.
The Fire Department public education-public information officer position also will be eliminated, saving $90,000. Chief Tom Everett said officials will look into how the duties will be handled.
Other funding changes approved Tuesday include making the Human Rights Department investigator a full-time position, costing $33,933, and reducing $15,000 for the Public Museum and $9,491 for the Art Center.
The operating budget covers city employee wages and benefits as well as municipal services from July 1 to June 30, 2014. The funding plan is separate from the capital budget, which pays for construction and improvement projects
The City Council is scheduled to approve both budgets on Monday.
Under the spending plans, taxes on a $100,000 house will go from $724 to $769 next year to cover municipal costs. It would be the first tax increase since 2009.
City officials said that for commercial and industrial property, taxes will go up $26 for every $100,000 valuation on the property.
Mayor Bob Scott during the Tuesday meeting criticized lawmakers for not doing more to reduce expenses.
"There are people at home who take cuts every day," he said. "There's a widow sitting out on the west side who's having a hard time paying her property taxes.”