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Columbus FOP to present budget recommendations to City Council

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A report from the Fraternal Order of Police outlining recommendations for budget cuts will be presented at the Columbus City Council meeting Tuesday.

Columbus City Council has some hard decisions to make this year. Cutting workers comp, amending overtime and the gap time policy, and increasing healthcare costs for city workers are all on the table, but now the council is getting feedback from someone else.

Over the past few months, the Columbus Fraternal Order of Police has been collecting recommendations from citizens and city employees about resolving the city's $2 million deficit.

The result is a report with 43 suggestions. FOP President Maj. Randy Robertson says now it's time for the community to decide what to do next.

He says, "They should be looked at by the citizens who receive the services, and not necessarily by the city employees who provide the services or by the elected officials, who at times can be swayed by those city employees."

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson says she's happy to get the report, but there's a reason some of the ideas aren't in place. "We don't just make this stuff up," says the mayor. "There is a very rigorous and full process behind our budget, and we actually do cost savings analysis all the time."

Colin Martin is running for mayor against Tomlinson this year. He says there's a problem when an outside organization like the FOP has to collect feedback.

"I think the issue is that city employees took it upon themselves to find those," says Martin, "and yet they didn't feel comfortable enough to take them to the leadership of the city because the leadership of the city threatened them with job cuts, so they had to have an outside organization be the intermediary to make this happen."

More than 100 people called and emailed with suggestions. Maj. Robertson says previously many of them had not spoken up for fear of losing their jobs, but a whistle-blower disclaimer within the report prevents that from happening.

The mayor responded, "I can understand that people might be concerned, but I think we actually have a long history of really getting some robust feedback from our employees and there being no ramification or retaliation whatsoever."

The 43 recommendations in the report include eliminating the D.A.R.E. program and consolidating duplicate crime prevention programs, not tinting windows on patrol cars, and eliminating government-issued cell phones.

While City Council will start talking about some of the ideas at tomorrow's meeting, there will not be any decisions made immediately.

Zeph Baker, who has said he will also run for mayor, could not be reached for comment.

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Jessi Mitchell

Jessi joined the WRBL news team in October 2012 after working as a freelance production assistant for MTV Networks in Los Angeles.

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