After a month long break, the Arlington City Council was back in action Tuesday, diving head first into a slew of big issues.
City Manager Trey Yelverton gave council members a detailed presentation on the proposed $427 million budget for 2016, which includes pay raises for city employees, a police body camera pilot program and a plan to save 23 police officer jobs tied to the red light camera program.
Yelverton said the city will lose approximately $2.2 million in annual revenue from the removal of the red light cameras, which was approved by voters in May. That money was used to pay for 23 full-time police officer positions and a handful of support staff. The city has since eliminated the support staff positions and has been using reserve funds to keep all 23 officers employed.
Yelverton told council members that city staff found room in the 2016 budget to retain all of those officers beyond the current fiscal year.
City staff also revealed they're working with the Department of Motor Vehicles to clear $19.8 million in unpaid fines, which they admit would be challenging to collect.
Also worked into the proposed budget is a pay increase for most city employees. Yelverton said many of those positions, particularly those in the engineering and information technology departments, are significantly underpaid when compared to other cities in the Metroplex. Those pay increases would be anywhere from two percent to six percent.
Police Chief Will Johnson addressed the council regarding a new body camera pilot project. He said the department would purchase 50 cameras that officers would test for six months. At the end of that period, he and his staff would decide how effective the cameras were and if the program should be expanded to include the entire department. The total cost of the pilot project is $50,000.
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The city has scheduled two public town halls where citizens can give their input on the budget. The first will take place Tuesday, Aug. 18, at 6:30 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers. The second meeting will take place on Monday, Aug. 24, at 6:30 p.m. in the South Police Service Center, located at 1030 SW Green Oaks Boulevard.