Most Minneapolis police officers are losing their cell phones, and they're expected to spend less time idling their patrol cars, which will get their oil changed less often.

Those are some of the ways the city's police department is stretching toward a City Council mandate that it cut spending or increase its income by $8.3 million by the end of next year.

Police Chief Tim Dolan and deputy Scott Gerlicher told the council's money committee Monday that so far their planned cuts are running almost $500,000 ahead of what's needed to make budget.

They won praise from committee members for presenting the monthly update in a more comprehensible format than three months ago, when Dolan irked some of the same council members for going almost $4.3 million over budget in 2009. With some council members questioning his management skills, the presentation could help Dolan when the council considers his reappointment next month.

Some of the biggest savings involve layoffs. The department has shed 30 civilian employees and 10 newly graduated police cadets it hoped to hire. Dolan won't fill the assistant chief position vacated when Sharon Lubinski became a U.S. marshal. He also hopes to squeeze more money out of upper ranks by flattening the department's management.

Fewer people helps to cut the department's fleet by 37 vehicles. That decline, coupled with other vehicle changes, will save a projected $354,000. The department has set a goal to cut fuel use by trimming the amount of time that vehicles idle, telling officers that will save jobs. Some idling is needed in emergencies and to keep communication gear from draining batteries.

Ten officers already are leaving through retirement, resignation or dismissal, meaning the department already has hit its goal of losing eight officers through attrition this year. It needs to shed 16 by the end of next year. A federal grant is allowing the department to keep 13 officers, while other accounting shifts are funding 18 crime prevention civilians.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438