The San Juan Daily Star
Lawmaker asks governor, fiscal board to boost funding for municipal police
By The Star Staff
At-large Rep. Jesús Manuel Ortiz González asked Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia and the Financial Oversight and Management Board on Sunday to identify and assign a special allocation of funds in the recently certified Fiscal Plan that guarantees that the island’s municipalities have the necessary funds to address security issues, and hire and equip municipal police.
“Over the past few weeks, the rise in crime has dominated the news. The security of all citizens is an essential service and must be a priority for this and any government,” the legislator said. “For this reason, we are requesting that, as has been done with other essential services, a special allocation of funds be identified and allocated in the country’s fiscal plan to ensure that municipalities have the necessary resources to hire and equip municipal police officers who maintain security in their municipalities.”
By provision of the federal Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), budget allocations are made year after year by the oversight board. The approved budget for 2023 expresses support for the allocation of additional funds for the municipalities and the continuity of the essential services they offer, but, in Ortiz González’s opinion, despite the relief they received through the special funds for garbage collection and road repair provided by the Debt Adjustment Plan Enabling Law, Law 52-2021, the budgetary situation in the municipalities continues to be a precarious and worrying one.
“We are concerned about the lack of funds allocated for the municipal police, added to the lack of personnel and resources, and bureaucracy at the DSP [Public Safety Department], which has plunged the Puerto Rico Police Bureau into a hole. The finances of many of the smaller municipalities are affected by the oversight board’s cutting of the Equalization Fund,” Ortiz González said. “We recognize the fiscal crisis that we continue to go through at the island level; however, we consider it essential that resources be allocated where they are needed. The municipal police have always been a helping hand of the state government, who are the ones who have the primary responsibility to address the needs of these public officials who risk their lives on a daily basis.”
The legislator, through a letter, suggested that the funds can come from new industries in favor of the Puerto Rico police and the municipalities, as well as from the General Fund, or from special funds among which he mentioned the Municipal One-Time Economic Support or the Emergency Reserve. In addition to those, the fiscal plan mentioned other initiatives aimed at assisting municipalities such as the Fund for Solid Waste Collection, the temporary reduction in the payment of the Health Card, the Municipal Consolidation Fund and the fund for the maintenance of schools and roads.
“The fiscal crisis that the island is going through should not be an obstacle to guaranteeing the entire population access to essential security and protection services, “ Ortiz González said. “For this reason, we are asking fiscal entities to identify greater resources so that municipalities can reinforce their municipal security teams, offer greater security to Puerto Ricans and thus guarantee the provision of essential services.”