The Office of Public Safety Administration was created by the Lightfoot administration and announced as a cost-saving initiative, with stated goals at its launch of:
- Redirecting uniformed police officers and firefighters from desk roles in headquarters to active field roles
- Consolidating civilian staff from the finance, human resources, information technology and logistics divisions of CFD, CPD and OEMC into the new department
- Providing data analysis for overtime management at and working to develop long-term strategies to decrease overtime
A 2022 BGA Policy investigation found that the department in its first three years of budgets did not reduce public safety costs, with non-personnel cost increases outweighing the savings from reduced public safety positions. The proposed 2024 budget would continue that trend, with overall emergency department spending up in appropriation accounts shared by OPSA, CFD, CPD, and OEMC.
Snapshot: Appropriation & Staffing Changes from 2023 Budget
|2023 Budgeted||2024 Proposed||Net Change||Percent Change|
|Positions & FTEs||362||386||24||6.6%|
- Appropriations to OPSA have not been matched with equivalent (or in many cases any) reductions in other emergency service department budgets. CPD, CFD, and OEMC’s combined appropriations in categories taken on by OPSA since its introduction have risen at an average rate of 3.7% per year.
- In the 2024 budget proposal, OPSA’s total appropriations are down -4.5%, below the department’s historical average and the overall city growth rate.
- Headcount is up a net 24 positions, predominantly driven by an increase of 20 CPD timekeeper positions, up from 33 in the previous year’s budget to 53 in the 2024 proposal.
- Despite a -27.9% reduction, the professional and technical services (outside contracting) appropriation remains the department’s largest at $38.3 million. The department spends more on outside contracting than it does on wages and salaries on payroll.
- OPSA appropriations include roughly $4.5 million for consent decree related spending, one of four departments with a consent decree appropriation (the others being the Chicago Police Department, Civilian Office of Police Accountability, and Office of Emergency Management and Communication.) All told, the 2024 budget includes roughly $18.1 million in consent decree spending.
The Office of Public Safety Administration was created in Lori Lightfoot’s first budget, and launched as a full and independently functioning department by 2021. The 2020 OPSA budget was something of a placeholder, without fully-fleshed appropriation and position totals, making 2021 the first benchmark year for the department’s subsequent growth.
From 2021-2023, the department budget grew at an average rate of 10.9% per year. Departmental budgets overall increased an average of 10.1% per year over the same time period, largely due to an influx of federal pandemic relief funds, while the total city budget including Finance General appropriations grew at an average rate of 11.0% annually.
The department’s budgeted workforce grew at a rate of roughly 1.1% annually from 2021-2023. Overall budgeted positions for the city remained relatively flat across the same time period, with minor year-to-year fluctuations averaging out to an overall growth rate of 1.6%.
In the 2024 budget proposal, OPSA’s total appropriations are down -4.5%, below the department’s historical average and the overall city growth rate, while headcount is up 24 positions, one of the largest headcount increases in the proposal.
Emergency Department Cost Savings
As a cost-saving measure, OPSA’s budget history does not demonstrate savings in the pre-existing emergency services departments from which it took over services.
2023 was the first year since OPSA’s introduction in which appropriations budgeted by OPSA saw an overall reduction in the city’s other emergency services departments (CFD, CPD, and OEMC). The proposed 2024 budget does not continue that trend, with appropriation costs for OPSA’s appropriation categories rising in the city’s other emergency services departments.
Appropriations for services by OPSA, in other words, were not matched by equivalent (or even any) reductions in those same services by the pre-existing emergency services departments. Overall, those appropriation categories for CFD, CPD, and OEMC have grown at a rate of roughly 3.7% annually since the introduction of OPSA as a standalone department.
In addition to shared categories, OPSA makes a number of appropriations that are not part of the CFD, CPD, or OEMC budgets, adding to the overall cost of operating as an independent department.
OPSA headcount is up a net 24 positions, predominantly driven by an increase of 20 CPD timekeeper positions, up from 33 in the previous year’s budget to 53 in the 2024 proposal.
The department has also added headcount in a number of new titles: two data analyst positions, and one position each for CPD digital retrieval specialist, GIS analyst, and senior personal assistant.
OPSA’s largest appropriation in the 2024 budget is $38.3 million for professional and technical services, the main outside contracting appropriation. OPSA also appropriates sizable parts of its budget for other outside contracting appropriations, including IT maintenance ($17.7m) and IT development ($14m).
OPSA appropriations include roughly $4.5 million for consent decree related spending, one of four departments with a consent decree appropriation (the others being the Chicago Police Department, Civilian Office of Police Accountability, and Office of Emergency Management and Communication.) All told, the 2024 budget includes roughly $18.1 million in consent decree spending.
Change from Previous Year
OPSA’s largest appropriation increases in the 2024 budget are in salary-related categories. The department’s largest appropriation cut is in the professional and technical services category, which despite a -27.9% reduction remains the department’s largest appropriation.