Residents voice worries as Raytown budget cuts could lead to loss of more than a dozen police officers

RAYTOWN, Mo. -- The city of Raytown is trying to resolve a big budget shortfall. The police chief is now saying if nothing changes, 17 officers will lose their jobs.

The city says a steady decline in most of its revenue streams mean the budget has to be cut by more than $3 million. But many residents say there are better ways to go about it than slashing a third of the police force.

Elisa Breitenbach loves her hometown and running a donut shop in Raytown.

"I love this community. It's the most supportive community you could ever dream of having a business in," said Breitenbach, owner of Doughboys.

But she's been vocal recently about her frustrations with the city. A string of armed robberies and break-ins at businesses left her fearful of her own safety. And those concerns are now only growing with the city's planned budget cuts, which the chief says could force the personnel cuts.

"I actually had one of my very favorite officers in here this morning and he informed me this was his last day. He was going to retire so the younger guys could keep their jobs. It put a lump in my throat. It put tears in my eyes. It's sad. It's really sad," said Breitenbach.

The police department does make up the biggest chunk of the city's budget, and most of its costs are staff salaries.

But not everyone is convinced the department needs such a serious budget slashing. Tony Jacob is just a concerned resident and he's read every line of the budget.

"There's a lot of weird budget line items is the best way to say it. So there's some funding going out for three marked cars--another place two unmarked cars--but they're not going to auction any of the old ones off. That just seems a little sketchy," Jacob said.

Several departments also still have money slotted for cost of living and merit based pay increases. He also found some other spending he calls strange.

"Thousand dollars for bereavement flowers. Seems a little excessive," said Jacob.

Savings he identified could total over $900,000, while only eliminating two officers.

"It's kind of gotten to be the board against the police dept. And I think we need to look at things holistically and look at other departments that can give money instead of just the police department," Jacob said.

Other city departments are slated for cuts, too, but they are less severe. Many worry the damage done by all the cuts could make things worse for attracting new businesses and residents while increasing crime and police response times for those who stay.

"We have to pull out of this. There's no other choice unless you want to move. I have no intentions on doing that. None," said Breitenbach.

Many residents just want their voices to be heard and for the city to consider the options they've brought to the table to save jobs. The council meets for a budget session Tuesday at 6 p.m. and takes a final vote on the budget next month.