The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

IC Councilor Laura Bergus tries second attempt to shift funds from police budget

Councilor Laura Bergus proposed a similar amendment to the city’s budget last year.
Cody Blissett
Iowa City councilmember Laura Bergus looks down during a meeting in Iowa City on Tuesday, March 7, 2023.

Iowa City City Councilor Laura Bergus proposed an amendment to the city’s budget on Tuesday to shift an increase in funds for the police department to other public safety services that do not involve law enforcement.

This comes a year after Bergus attempted the same amendment with last year’s budget. Both attempts proved unsuccessful, but this year’s attempt garnered support from more councilors.

The police department’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year will be increased by over $460,000 compared to last year’s budget, Fruin said.

Last year, Bergus proposed two different amendments to the police budget, which failed in 6-1 and 5-2 votes, respectively. The only councilor to vote in the affirmative with Bergus at that time was Councilor Andrew Dunn.

This year, only one amendment was proposed, which failed in a 4-3 vote, with Bergus, Dunn, and Mayor Pro Tem Mazahir Salih voting in the affirmative.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Bergus said the council cannot prioritize mental health resources and other public safety services that do not involve law enforcement without actually shifting money away from other line items in the budget because of how tight money already is.

Several community members spoke during public comment for this year’s budget item asking councilors to vote against the budget because of the increased funds being allocated to the Iowa City Police Department.

Around a dozen speakers spoke about the police budget at the meeting. Iowa City resident Nicole Yeager said there are better ways for the city to spend money than on its police department.

“There’s something about carrying a gun into these situations that escalates and makes it so much worse,” Yeager said “And so I ask you to truly stand with community, stand with housing, stand with everything possible for people.”

Bergus said with the city’s budget being tight already, it is not possible to adequately support mental health and non-law enforcement public safety without making shifts.

“Our police department is doing the right thing by asking for more money every year. That’s their job, that’s what they should do,” Bergus said. “It is our job to say, fundamentally, is that what we want to spend our resources on?”

Salih agreed with this sentiment and suggested not hiring new police officers to use the proposed increase in funds for other supportive services. City Manager Geoff Fruin said the city is authorized to have a staff of 85 officers and currently have around 80 officers employed.

However, other councilors brought up similar concerns voiced last year regarding this topic, such as overworking officers because of staffing shortages.

“If we want better policing and yet we have overworked police, that’s not conducive. Those two things butt head-to-head,” Councilor Shawn Harmsen said.

The overall budget, including the unchanged police budget, for fiscal 2025 ultimately passed in a 5-2 vote, with Bergus and Salih voting against passage.

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About the Contributors
Isabelle Foland
Isabelle Foland, News Editor
Isabelle Foland is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Spanish. She is a second-year news reporter at The Daily Iowan, reporting mainly on Iowa City City Council. She is from Missouri Valley, Iowa and has reported for her hometown paper prior to her time at The DI.
Cody Blissett
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.