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City of Sioux Falls Considers Aggressive Hiring Plan For FY 2023
Federal Grant Money Could Create New Police Powers- Council Focused on Employment Retention and Diversity Instead.

The city council held its second budget hearing this past week to discuss the proposed budget of $646,200,000 million dollars. The focus of council-members seemed to relate to the future needs of the city, population growth, the diversity needs of representing the total population, and how to retain employees - as to avoid currently high rates of turn-over.

The City of Sioux Falls has full-time staff equal to 66 persons per every 10,000 residents of the city. With that large of a staff, the ability of the city to maintain, and retain full-time employees over-time remains a dedicated focus of the Human Resources Department. The city is seeing a 9.8% rate in turn-over ratio however, which includes recent retirees or those soon to be retired.

According to Bill O'Toole, the city's HR Director, over the next five years (between 2021-2027), the city is expected to see 86 full-time employees become eligible for retirement. In an effort to prevent staffing deficits, the city is now considering a budget proposal to replace retirees, by hiring 30 new full-time employees this year.



However, many on the city council have voiced reservations due to high turn-over rates (about 6% over the last four years), the impacts of inflation on retirement pensions, and the economy. Many say they're concerned with the financial commitment of new hires, in light of these issues, and question if it's sustainable.

"My concern is maybe not specific positions," Councilman Curt Soehl said during the meeting. "But the overall general economy that the city is going into in the future, now starting a recession. I think we're going to take a close, hard look at all the positions and see where they're necessary."

Councilman Pat Starr stated during the meeting, "give me something." "Give me something to take back that says we're making progress somewhere in this budget."

Councilor Greg Nietzert has sat on the city council for six years (2016-present day), and also believes this is a big ask in uncertain times.

Of the thirty new full-time positions, the city is requesting between two-to-four new full-time staff members per year, and the Mayor is requesting to hire four new police offers. Initially, the new officer positions could be funded by a one-time federal grant, rather than local residents. It's unclear however, which exact grant will be utilized.

Police Chief John Thum told the council, the four new police officers will be paid for over the next few years by utilizing a federal block grant. However, when questioned by Councilman Pat Starr about the grant, Thum could not remember the name of the particular grant.

Oddly enough, the city council seems unbothered by the lack of clarity regarding funding sources, or what obligations they're potentially committing to by accepting particular grants.

Back in 2021, The Department of Justice announced more than $139 million in grant funding through the department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), COPS Hiring Program (CHP). Those awards provided direct funding to 183 law enforcement agencies across the nation, allowing those agencies to hire 1,066 additional full-time law enforcement professionals. The description can be found here on Justice Department's website.

“We are committed to providing police departments with the resources needed to help ensure community safety and build community trust,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The grants we are announcing today will enable law enforcement agencies across the country to hire more than 1,000 additional officers to support vitally important community oriented policing programs,” Garland stated in a press release.

That program has already ended for FY2022, and while President Biden allocated an additional 300 million to the program last year, nothing has been mentioned for FY 2023, as of yet. Additionally, the city of
Sioux Falls is not listed as an award recipient of the grant, nor is the city currently listed as an applicant.

However, there is a specific federal grant that was approved in 2021 called the "Mental Health Awareness Training Grant."

"The purpose of this program is to (1) train individuals (e.g., school personnel, emergency first responders, law enforcement, veterans, armed services members and their families) to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental disorders, particularly serious mental illness (SMI) and/or serious emotional disturbances (SED). (2) establish linkages with school- and/or community-based mental health agencies to refer individuals with the signs or symptoms of mental illness to appropriate services. (3) train emergency services personnel, law enforcement, fire department personnel, veterans, and others to identify persons with a mental disorder and employ crisis de-escalation techniques.(4) educate individuals about resources that are available in the community for individuals with a mental disorder. It is expected that this program will prepare and train others on how to appropriately and safely respond to individuals with mental disorders, particularly individuals with SMI and/or SED."

This "Grant" clearly sets a mandate for local units of government to hire and fund police enforcement positions that manage the mental health, and substance us disorders of the community, as well as fellow law enforcement officers.

Under the Grant, applicants (the city) can apply for a grant to fund a Mental Health and Behavioral Program for up to five years, providing cities a revenue stream of $625,000 thousand dollars, or $125,000 per year for new staff members, as long as the city meets requirements of the grant. That being said,
the grant also requires cost matching, which specifically states that the funds cannot come from another federal revenue source, meaning the city would be required to match whatever funds come from this grant.

While accepting federal grant money is certainly appealing, it's not a long-term revenue source for the city. Eventually the taxpayers of Sioux Falls will see these increases added to their property, gas and sales tax. Every new hire is also entered into the PERS (Public Employee Retirement System) fund, potentially making life-time recipients of taxpayer dollars out of every new hire. Meanwhile, the city will have instituted new programs, required by the federal government, as a condition of receiving certain grants.

The city will move forward with discussion on
the Mayor's recommended budget, to determine if an aggressive hiring strategy is needed, and if so, what type of federal obligations the city might be bound to if funded via grants.

The next budget meeting will be held tomorrow, Tuesday August 16, 2022 at 3pm.
The full schedule can be viewed here for meeting times, dates and public comment periods. If you have any questions please contact the City Clerk at (605) 367-8080 or email at clerks@siouxfalls.org.

--Mike Zitterich

Post Date: 2022-08-15 08:32:10Last Update: 2022-08-13 15:38:35


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