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Boise Council sends 2021 budget to next stage after residents voice opposing opinions on growing police portion in Tuesday hearing

Only two council members voted against the budget moving forward.
Posted at 9:04 PM, Jul 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-22 00:18:33-04

BOISE, Idaho — In a rare occurrence for budget votes, Boise Council members Jimmy Hallyburton and Lisa Sánchez voted against the proposed Fiscal Year 2021 budget, citing concerns about the growing police portion. Their votes, however, were outnumbered by the four other council members who voted "yes" on sending it to a final approval stage.

This vote came after the City of Boise held a public hearing on the 2021 Fiscal Year budget Tuesday evening, where several residents testified either for or against the Mayor Lauren McLean's proposed police funding, both virtually and in-person.

“Now is the time to look at how we examine our resources to best meet the needs of our diverse community," said Rev. Sara LaWall, resident of Boise. "Invest in creative and transformative justice processes that allow for community connection and healing over punishment.”

Another resident, whose name Idaho News 6 was unable to catch, spoke positively in favor of the proposed police funding, saying, “This is the first city I’ve lived in where policing and police department -- both philosophy and the way the law enforcement people work -- has been positive."

Former Boise mayor Brent Coles even showed up to speak his mind.

“I hope you’re increasing patrol cars," said Coles. "You need officers, you need response... We’ve had some very unfortunate incidents in our community.”

The city is planning to add five additional officer positions in Fiscal Year 2021.

This pie chart from CityofBoise.org shows that the Mayor's Office is proposing 28.8% of the city budget to go toward police next year, indicated in dark blue:

That’s a larger portion than was stated in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget, which allocated only 28.3% percent, indicated in light green:

This is the 2020 Fiscal Year budget.

Whitney Mestelle, founder of new group Inclusive Idaho, says she hopes Boise leaders will consider reallocating some of the funding away from School Resource Officer (SRO) positions, and toward mental health care.

“I’m not here today to tell you guys I think you’re doing a terrible job, but I am here to tell you, I think we can do better," said Mestelle.

Testimony for and against was relatively split even.

The Mayor's Office defended their police portion increase within their proposed budget text, explaining that it is part of a multiyear boost to meet growing public safety need caused by population growth:

"These additions allow the Boise Police Department (BPD) to maintain service levels given community growth and calls for service that are growing in number and complexity. The department also needs more officers to maintain a desired balance between responding to calls and proactive community policing activities."