ITHACA, N.Y.—Tompkins County and the City of Ithaca have published partial budget estimates for the implementation of parts of the Reimagining Public Safety reform proposal, which should help ease the fears of some local politicians that have used the previous lack of cost clarity as an objection to the plan.
According to the document, the maximum total amount of money required, at least as estimated so far, is $992,587.20, but that number is only relevant if every recommendation of the proposal is accepted. Common Council and the Tompkins County Legislature still have to vote on what parts of the plan they approve by April 1.
As for what funding would be needed up-front, the estimate states that almost $600K should be made available initially for the Community Justice Center, non-emergency calls pilot program (only for the county), recruitment changes and the comprehensive community healing plan. Other expenditures could be approved in the future by the Tompkins County Legislature and the Ithaca Common Council.
The estimates only include budget impact assessments for nine of the 19 recommendations, since the other 10 would not require additional money budgeted for their implementation or other costs associated with them; instead, those could be accomplished with existing resources and existing staff.
One potentially large portion of the expenses that isn’t defined in the estimate document is the one that has generated the most controversy: Recommendation 1, which calls for the replacement of the Ithaca Police Department with a Community Solutions and Public Safety Department. The county would not be spending any money on that proposal, but there is also a TBD listed on the city’s expenditure slot since they aren’t sure how much staffing might be necessary for the new department.
While there is no set budget number for the creation of the Community Solutions and Public Safety Department, they do present a theoretical scenario in which five Community Solutions Workers (the unarmed group) are hired at $75,000 per year between salary and benefits, a civilian director of CSPS is hired at $189,800 per year (plus funds for start-up and an executive firm to conduct the search), plus cutting one Deputy Chief position when the conversion to the Public Safety division is made, which would save $164,165. Thus, the plan calls for a “one-time budget increase of $488,135,” while the annual impact would be an increase of $403,135. It’s unclear where the salaries of current police officers would fit in or if they would remain the same, meaning there would be no budget change.
For reference, here’s the list of recommendations and the budget spending that the county and city have assessed each would cost. The Implementation figure listed below would go towards hiring a Project Manager and a Data Analyst for the Community Justice Center, which would be founded to help with the initiation and follow-through of whichever recommendations are approved.
The other largest expenditures would include the county paying an extra $210,960.54, accounting for the hiring of three staff members who would handle the establishment of a “pilot program for non-emergency calls,” part of the recommendation that Tompkins County “better align available resources with emergency response needs,” or Recommendation 3. They would be tasked with a variety of duties, including overseeing community programs, vehicle and equipment maintenance, grant applications, contract management and more duties normally assigned to officers.
The real-time public safety community dashboard has been one of the more praised portions of the proposal, is projected to cost just under $27K each year (with slight reductions in year 2 and 3 but no budget projection offered beyond that), split equally between the county and the city. This would serve as a tangible improvement to transparency between the community and law enforcement, sharing law enforcement related metrics, according to the budget narrative. The municipalities apparently intend to employ the Spillman Module.
Again split equally between the two municipalities would be the formulation of a community healing plan to “address trauma in the relationship between residents and law enforcement,” using $50,000 to hire an outside consultant to assist in the development of the plan and connecting with community leaders, and dedicating $25,000 to community facilitators (and an additional $5,000 for supplies and hospitality). The goal would be to address “generational distrust between people of color and law enforcement” through interaction with the public and helping community leaders learn trauma-informed strategies to help with the healing plan’s sustainability. This would be a one-time cost, though additional funding would be needed for training of community leaders.
There is also $75,000 dedicated to Recommendation 5, which calls for “new curriculum, redesigning and implementing a culturally responsive training program that incorporates de-escalation and mental health components into a comprehensive response for law enforcement.” The county would fund $40K of this for the Sheriff’s Office, allocated for road patrol, jail training and “establish mechanisms to evaluate the effectiveness of training.” IPD’s training budget would shift $35,000 to culturally responsive/anti-racist training, plus the aforementioned effectiveness of training analysis.
Three smaller expenditures, for Recommendations 10, 11 and 13, would allocate $35K, $40K and $51K, respectively, for the purposes of new law enforcement recruitment strategies, officer wellness programs (indicated to be starting a peer support program among officers), and the repurposing of the SWAT Mobile Command Vehicle to become an asset of the county’s Department of Emergency Response.