Open discussion of law enforcement needs welcome
De Soto residents are being asked to participate in a decision basic to the community's quality of life as the City Council considers the level of service it will offer.
De Soto's contract with the Johnson County Sheriff's Department has been a bargain. The contract is less than half the budget of police departments of Eudora, Spring Hill and Baldwin cities with approximately the same population as De Soto.
But the contract offers De Soto less than what the other cities' police departments are offering their citizens. The other communities have an officer on duty at all times. De Soto's contract with the Sheriff's Department only requires a deputy be on duty in the district that includes De Soto at all times. The district includes much of Lexington Township.
The City Council agreed to increase the level of enforcement in 2003 to include a daily eight-hour shift that would place an officer exclusively in De Soto at the cost of $84,000. But Johnson County Sheriff John Foster was candid in stating De Soto had far outgrown its existing contract and needed more than that stop-gap increase. He was equally candid about the cost. Placing an officer in De Soto full-time would more than double the city's original 2003 contract of $264,000 a year.
Using 2003 budget figures that total would increase by six mills. The consequences of such a long-term budgetary commitment are obvious: The City Council would have to approve a significant tax increase or make cuts in other areas.
Mayor Dave Anderson said he wanted preliminary 2004 budget figures available for public review before spring Council elections. And the Council made clear it wanted public direction before making any further decisions about the level of law enforcement offered in the city.
De Soto citizens need to take the opportunity to comment on the level of service they want.