NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Some of the $20 million allotted in the proposed municipal budget to fund the city police department would be better used elsewhere, said several people participating in Wednesday night’s City Council meeting.
Instead, the police department’s share of the city’s proposed $95 million budget should be diverted to support community services and public safety initiatives, they said.
“Defund the Police” has been a rallying cry that has grown louder nationally since George Floyd died after being pinned to the ground by a police officer’s knee for about 8 minutes, 45 seconds on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minn.
In Los Angeles, the city council voted earlier this week to study ways to slash the police’s budget by as much as $150 million. In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier this week that he would cut funding to the police department, which has an annual budget of $6 billion, according to the New York Times.
About 10 people who spoke during Wednesday’s meeting want New Brunswick to follow suit.
“I think it’s really appalling to me that the police in New Brunswick make up over 20% of the municipal budget, while health, youth services and recreation combined make up less than 1%,” said one resident who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, which was held via telephonic technology.
“Serving the community isn’t necessarily having more police,” she said. “Serving the community is reallocating some of this enormous budget the police have toward community organizations and services, education, housing and economic development.”
The proposed budget introduced earlier this month includes no increase in municipal taxes in an attempt to help residents – many of whom lost jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The average property owner, defined as an owner of a property assessed at $270,900, would pay $2,838 in taxes.
The 2019 budget increased taxes by about $110 per city homeowner to help add five officers to the police department.
“Imagine if instead that money went to our grossly underfunded social services, poverty relief organization or even to start a new community-based anti-violence and hard-reduction services,” said New Brunswick resident James Boyle.
According to a petition launched on change.org, by cutting the police’s budget in 2020, “crime rates would decline as people wouldn’t be struggling to meet their basic needs.”
It wasn’t clear if Capt. Christopher Goldeski was at the meeting in City Hall or participating via telephone, but he did not address the calls to defund the department.
Responding to a resident, City Council President John Anderson said that the proposed budget does not allocate money to hire new police officers.
“The police department will not be hiring this year, so their numbers will be down and allocating money for the other different places has been talked about and taken care of,” he said. “But 18 of the 20 million dollars is for salary and wages, which we don’t want to have a fight for legal contracts and things like that. So, $2 million to do what they have to do. We appreciate them, especially having it 24/7, 365 days.”
A public hearing on the budget, which has a total expenditure of $94.4 million with a levy of about $35.9 million, is scheduled to be held July 15.