City council approves FY22 budget, crisis unit support from general fund

·3 min read

Jun. 9—In an 11th hour decision by a Norman city councilor Tuesday, the city pivoted from reallocating $500,000 in proposed Norman Police Department funding and found alternate support for a mobile crisis response unit.

Ward 1 Brandi Studley had previously proposed an amendment to reallocate $500,000 from the NPD's proposed budget to help fund a mobile crisis unit for mental health and non-emergency calls. During the meeting, she changed her amendment to pull the money from the general fund.

The updated amendment passed 5-4 just before 2 a.m. Wednesday, with Mayor Breea Clark, Ward 2 Lauren Schueler, Ward 5 Michael Nash and Ward 8 Matt Peacock voting against.

The Council also approved the final amendment to the FY22 budget, authorizing $630,000 reallocated last year from the NPD's proposed budget to carry over into the next fiscal year budget for a "non-police" mobile crisis response program. It passed 8-1, with Peacock voting against.

The council adopted the fiscal year ending 2022 budget unanimously just before 3 a.m. Wednesday.

The proposed reallocation from the NPD's proposed budget drew outrage from those who say they support fully funding police, and support from those in favor of the crisis unit.

During the Tuesday night meeting, the council learned an accounting error in the general fund had occurred. The updated amendment corrected a subtraction in the general fund by $841,846 twice from the Norman Fire Department and $220,109 in the Public Safety Sales Tax Fund, City Financial Services Director Anthony Fransisco explained.

Studley announced she proposed a change to her amendment to take the money from the general fund instead because the money was added back into the fund.

Several residents still spoke in favor of mobile crisis units and stressed the need for unarmed response to mental health and addiction calls. Others reiterated that they did not want to see funding cut from the NPD, despite the change in the amendment's funding mechanism. Some also said that the funding should be given to the NPD to boost training and other resources.

Studley and Ward 7 Stephen Holman said it was important to offer a second option for people who do not feel comfortable calling police.

Mayor Breea Clark voted against the amendment, expressing concern about the health of the city's revenue in the general fund. She noted that council and staff continue to evaluate several models, but the details of the mobile crisis response unit have not been decided. Reciting the weather woes of 2020, from ice to hail storms, Clark said it was important to "protect the general fund as much as possible."

Ward 6 Elizabeth Foreman said while she was not for "defunding police," she was glad to see the funds would not come out of the NPD's proposed budget.

Mindy Wood covers City Hall news and notable court cases for The Transcript. Reach her at mwood@normantranscript.com or 405-416-4420.

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