ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — On Tuesday, Mayor Kathy Sheehan presented her proposed 2020 budget for the city to the Common Council.
Public safety was a focal point of the proposed budget presentation, coming off a year of staffing concerns in the Albany Police Department, and a recent string of violence in the city.
“The budget has always provided for full staffing within the police and fire departments. It continues to do that within this budget,” Mayor Sheehan said in her presentation.
The 2020 budget will fund a new police academy. The mayor says the new space will allow the department to have a class of up to 40 officers, as well as allowing departments from other cities to use the facility for a fee.
Police Chief Eric Hawkins is excited for what this will do for his department.
“I’m extremely optimistic, from a public safety standpoint, about this budget,” Chief Hawkins told News10 in an interview.
He says the past year’s understaffing issues in the dispatch staff that left officers overworked was not a result of that year’s budget, but of the high number of retirements. Chief Hawkins says those officers can now expect some relief.
“We are giving them hope, because they now see that we are going to be fully staffed in dispatch by the end of this calendar year,” Chief Hawkins told News10. “We are going to have our police officers fully staffed by mid 2020.”
Chief Hawkins says there’s an organizational structure in place to ensure the understaffing doesn’t happen in the future.
Recent incidents of gun violence in Albany have been keeping officers busy. Chief Hawkins wants the community to know the department is making every effort to combat the issue.
“When these incidents are happening, we are arresting these individuals were doing this. We are sending a message that if individuals commit violence in this community, they will be arrested and they will be prosecuted,” Chief Hawkins told News10.
The Chief is especially troubled by the violent activity among youth.
City council President Corey Ellis says one of the ways the government is contributing to public safety is through the parks.
“We here at City Hall had forums last year about how we can curb the violence,” Ellis told News10, “and a lot of things came out about upgrading the parks.”
Part of the 2020 budget is set to do just that. Some funds from maintenance will be moved over to DGS so the city can improve service in the parks.
Also included in the budget are increased spending on information technology, slight property tax increases, and a $2 million increase from last year for street and sidewalk reconstruction.