Leadership View: Budgeting Season; Making Every Dollar Count
Authored by Chip Cooper, Chief Financial Officer
Late summer and early fall come with a host of time-honored transitions. The days begin to shorten, students return to school, and the annual budget season starts if you are a finance professional like me. Like most of you, I am not immune to the changing seasons. I find myself doing a double take when my morning alarm sounds because it’s still dark outside, my home has grown exponentially quieter since I dropped my son off at school, and our annual budget cycle is upon us here at CivicEye.
As I ponder my budget process and the difficulty in effecting the most significant impact on our organization, clients, and communities with the limited available resources, I can’t help but think about similar challenges facing law enforcement professionals.
Law Enforcement Faces Unprecedented Budgeting Challenges in a Time When Crime is on the Rise
Although law enforcement and corrections rank as the second highest budget item for local governments, it accounts for just 9.2% of all municipal spending. Those allocations have been declining in recent years, with a Bloomberg study revealing that the nation’s 50 largest cities cut their police budgets by 5.2%, on average, in 2021.
These cuts are due to various reasons; some can be attributed to political pressure, while most are due to a reprioritization of needs as municipalities shift their focus towards aging infrastructure, mounting debt and pension costs, and a renewed focus on public health in the era of COVID.
To compound the matter, LE agencies are faced with increasing costs and demands for their services. According to a 2022 ABCNews report, an estimated 80% – 95% of a department’s budget goes towards personnel. With a wave of retirements facing the industry, recruitment and training costs have steadily risen while inflationary pressures have demanded higher wages to afford the exact necessities. That leaves only 5-20% of department budgets for essentials such as vehicles, uniforms, protection equipment, training, technology, and general operating expenses.
Our law enforcement communities are dubious about making “either/or” decisions regarding critical necessities where the answer should be “both.” The traditional budgeting process for agencies is a zero-sum game, firstly because outcomes deteriorate in the absence of the essentials and secondly because cuts are only a temporary financial remedy until the next budget cycle when they are asked to surrender more. To break the cycle, agencies must remain strategic and forward-looking – investing those limited dollars in processes and systems that enable them to do more with less.
How is CivicEye Working with Law Enforcement to Solve the Problem
The former achieves a common goal amongst officers and communities by providing real-time access to intra and inter-jurisdictional data. This creates better preparedness in entering an unfamiliar situation and facilitates better transparency for communities. The latter solves yet another challenge facing law enforcement, more effective and efficient utilization of personnel for community policing and outreach rather than burdening officers with cumbersome administrative tasks. This reduces costs and workforce requirements so those budget dollars can be redeployed to youth programs, officer training, and other community outreach.
Leading and planning for a start-up come with similar operational and budgetary challenges. History provides little to no context for the future; we too are in unchartered territory. Agility is key; it requires an uncompromising focus on the North Star while constantly adjusting and fine-tuning the flight plan. We continually redirect energies to the things that are working well while quickly fixing or pivoting away from the things that are not.
Similarly, we are faced with “either/or” decisions under perpetual time, resource, and capital constraints, but we consistently favor initiatives representing scalability and efficiency investments. We emphasize productivity and repeatability throughout the organization; it is the way we drive predictable outcomes and do more with less.
I am delighted to be a part of a progressive and innovative organization that is genuinely trying to make a difference for our communities and law enforcement professionals. As I continue to work with our talented associates and leadership team to chart our next flight plan, I am in awe of the great things we’ve accomplished together and more inspired than ever to have a front-seat view of what is to come. I guess the budget season isn’t that bad after all.
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