Cost of policing set to jump for Falcon Heights

The proposed cost for the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office to patrol Falcon Heights is in, and the city is facing a 30 percent increase in its price of policing.

The St. Anthony Police Department will provide police service in Falcon Heights through the end of the year, with the sheriff’s office set to take over Jan. 1, 2018.

That first year of policing by Ramsey County, according to City Administrator Sack Thongvanh, will cost $930,000. Falcon Heights is set to put down an additional $70,000 to purchase and outfit a police squad car to be used by sheriff’s deputies while out on patrol. 

The 2017 cost for St. Anthony to patrol Falcon Heights was $762,000.

Thongvanh said a Ramsey County deputy will be posted in Falcon Heights 24 hours a day, a continuation of the service currently provided by St. Anthony.

“The only difference that [residents are] going to see is a difference in uniform,” he said.

St. Anthony is pulling out of Falcon Heights because of a rift linked to the police killing of Philando Castile last year. Castile, a 32-year-old African-American, was shot to death July 6, 2016, by a St. Anthony officer during a traffic stop on Larpenteur Avenue in Falcon Heights.

In March, the St. Anthony City Council passed a resolution seeking for Falcon Heights to take on liability for all St. Anthony police actions within Falcon Heights city limits. The move was taken as an insult by Falcon Heights City Council members.

It effectively marked the end of the 22-year relationship between the two cities; the St. Anthony City Council voted July 11 to officially terminate the police contract.

Thongvanh said Falcon Heights is joining the sheriff’s contract city group, which consists of the seven other suburbs patrolled by Ramsey County: Arden Hills, Gem Lake, Little Canada, North Oaks, Shoreview, Vadnais Heights and White Bear Township.

The group shares costs and presents a significantly less expensive option than entering into a separate agreement with the sheriff’s office. Though he had no hard numbers, Thongvanh said it would costs many millions of dollars for Falcon Heights to have a one-on-one deal, because it would essentially be starting it’s own police department, responsible for expensive equipment and hiring investigators.

“There’s a lot of background stuff that you don’t see when you’re part of the group, versus independent,” Thongvanh said.

Though nothing is finalized, Thongvanh said the city is likely to enter into a three or five-year contract with Ramsey County for policing.

More cost increases are coming. Thongvanh said the price in 2019 will be around $1.12 million, as Falcon Heights is brought into the contract city group’s capital outlay program, supporting expenses like the group’s vehicle budget.

To help mitigate the policing cost increase, Thongvanh said he and Finance Director Roland Olson have floated both short and long term ideas, including paying down debt service and keeping storm sewer, lighting and sanitary fees flat.

A longer term way to support the change in costs, Thongvanh said, could be an Xcel Energy franchise fee that goes to the city that would be paid by residents, the State Fair and the University of Minnesota, as an extra cost on energy bills.

As it stands, Thongvanh said the city’s property tax levy is set to jump because of policing costs, and the city council will likely seek ways to minimize the levy increase. 

“This is the true cost of government,” he said.

The next Falcon Heights budget workshop is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 2077 Larpenteur Ave.

 

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813


 

Rate this article: 
No votes yet
Comment Here