Fiscal Responsibility and Equitable Distribution: Examining Gorton’s Proposed $13.8M Increase in Lexington’s Police Budget

Unspent Funds and Unanswered Questions

As we delve into the city’s budgetary practices, it becomes evident that certain fiscal decisions warrant closer scrutiny. While public safety remains a crucial concern, the mayor’s recent FY24 budget proposal has raised concerns about transparency, accountability, and the allocation of resources. It is essential to address these issues head-on and steer our city towards a path of fiscal responsibility and equitable distribution of funds.

One notable example lies in the police department’s personnel budget. In the proposed FY23 budget, a substantial personnel budget of $74 million was allocated. However, it has come to light that the police department is understaffed and only $48 million was actually spent as of the FY24 proposal’s release, leaving a staggering surplus of $26 million with only two months left in the year. This discrepancy cannot be ignored, as it raises questions about the responsible allocation and utilization of taxpayer dollars.

The mayor subsequently opted to use $24.6 million from a projected FY23 surplus to balance the budget for the coming year and proposed yet another massive annual police budget of $95M for FY24. This number reflects a considerable increase of $13.8M from the previous fiscal year’s budget. The FY24 budget includes an $11.6M increase in police personnel costs, despite having only seven recruits in the academy as of March. This clumsy carry-forward of unspent money, resembling a slush fund, is disheartening. While this approach may provide short-term relief, it merely kicks the can down the road, postponing the need for genuine fiscal accountability.

Furthermore, it is concerning to note that the city not only faces a shortfall between income and expenses in the coming year but also stands to take on $35.5 million in new debt. These financial decisions risk placing an additional burden on future administrations, stifling the potential for growth and innovation. We must prioritize responsible financial management that addresses the immediate needs of our community without compromising the well-being of future residents.

In contrast to the Police department’s budget, the allocation for ONE Lexington initiatives, aimed at tackling the root causes of gun violence, remains underfunded. Though total funding for ONE Lexington, utilizing both federal ARPA money and the General Fund, has risen from $503,836 in FY23 to a proposed $525,874 for FY24, ONE Lexington’s resources pale in comparison to the vast sums dedicated to the police. This glaring disparity calls into question the Gorton administration’s true commitment to addressing the root causes of gun violence and other societal challenges.

Gun violence among young people has reached critical levels in our beloved city of Lexington, prompting the formation of ONE Lexington—an agency dedicated to reducing this alarming trend. By leveraging community resources and fostering partnerships, ONE Lexington has made significant strides in addressing the root causes of gun violence. However, to truly address the complex issues our community faces, it is imperative that we allocate more funding to ONE Lexington and other vital areas such as food security, public transportation, and affordable housing.

While ONE Lexington has made significant strides, there is still much work to be done. By prioritizing comprehensive investment in people, not policing, we can enhance the impact of their programs and address the underlying issues that contribute to gun violence. It is essential that our administration recognizes the significance of allocating resources to initiatives like ONE Lexington to ensure their continued success.

Beyond Gun Violence: Addressing Root Causes

To truly address the root causes of gun violence, we must tackle interconnected issues such as food security, public transportation, and affordable housing. These areas are crucial in creating a thriving community where our youth can flourish and reach their full potential. By investing in comprehensive solutions, we can break the cycle of violence and foster an environment of opportunity and hope.

Food Security: Adequate access to nutritious food is a fundamental right that must be safeguarded. By allocating resources to address food insecurity, we can ensure that our young people have the sustenance they need to thrive. With additional funding, ONE Lexington and other city agencies could play a transformative role in collaborating with local organizations and implementing programs that provide healthy meals and educational opportunities for vulnerable populations.

Public Transportation: Reliable and affordable public transportation is essential in connecting our youth to educational, employment, and recreational opportunities. By investing in improved public transportation systems, we can empower young individuals to overcome barriers and access the resources they need to build a brighter future.

Affordable Housing: Safe and affordable housing is a cornerstone of stable communities. By addressing the housing crisis and investing in affordable housing initiatives, we can provide young people with a secure foundation to thrive. More funding could help ONE Lexington and other agencies collaborate with housing organizations and advocate for policies that promote equitable access to housing options, ensuring that our youth are not forced into unstable living situations that perpetuate cycles violence.

Comprehensive Investment for a Safer Future: If our administration truly seeks to address the root causes of violence, they must allocate more funding to areas like ONE Lexington, food security, public transportation, and affordable housing. By adopting a holistic approach to community well-being, we can create an environment where young people are nurtured, supported, and provided with the tools they need to succeed.

If we genuinely aspire to create lasting change and address the underlying issues that contribute to crime and inequality, we must reallocate funds in a manner that reflects our values. ONE Lexington’s initiatives have the potential to make a significant impact on our community’s well-being, promoting social equity, and addressing systemic challenges. Additionally, by investing in programs that focus on food security, public transportation, and affordable housing, we can work towards long-term solutions that address the root causes of crime and social disparities.

To achieve these goals, we must demand transparency, accountability, and a shift in budget priorities. We must foster open dialogue between the community, administration, council, and stakeholders to ensure that fiscal decisions are made with the best interests of our entire community in mind. It is our responsibility as residents to advocate for a more balanced allocation of resources, challenging the status quo and striving for a city where everyone can thrive.

Photo: Mayor Gorton delivers her FY24 budget address. (YouTube screenshot)