Posted 4/26/16 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
It’s going to be difficult, but the Tioga Police Department said it’s going to try to make it work.
In April, when the first quarter financials showed a tough year ahead for the city, Mayor Drake McClelland and City Auditor Abby Salinas put together a series of proposed budget cuts for all city departments.
Out of about $830,000 in proposed cuts, the police department is carrying about 48 percent of them.
The police department and Commissioner Ronda Davidson expressed concerns about a single department carrying most of the cuts.
Doing with less
After reviewing the cuts over the past two weeks, Police Chief Larry Maize said the department is coming up with strategies to operate on less.
“We are willing to hold with this budget, and I think we can make it work,” he said.
Police Administrator Jeff Spivey said they are requesting two items in the list of proposed cuts be reduced. These involve cost of care for police dogs and ammunition.
Easing the cuts on those two items will increase the budget, after cuts, by about $15,000, Spivey said.
Spivey said the most difficult item they have to wrestle with is overtime.
Currently the department has three patrol officers and a school resource officer. The SRO can only be on patrol for 25 percent of her time, as per grant requirements.
While that leaves just enough officers to cover 24-hour patrols, seven days a week, other duties and issues arise that require overtime.
Whenever officers are sick or go on vacation, the other officers have to work overtime to cover the shifts.
Other duties, such as prisoner transport to the county jail in Williston and the serving of warrants, also take officers off patrols or add time to their shifts.
“When we come on shift, we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Spivey said.
The department is hoping to ease overtime costs with part-time officers from other agencies in the area. These are licensed officers who work in the Tioga Police Department with permission from their supervisors.
At the last regular meeting, the commission approved Spivey’s request to try to recruit part-time officers.
Spivey said there’s no certainty they’ll find licensed officers available and interested for the opportunity.
Tioga will pay the officers an entry-level wage, which is about $21 per hour, and do not have to pay for benefits.
Spivey told the commission the department, which had four officers resign over the past year, will not need to purchase any new equipment for any part-time officers.
“We are trying everything we can,” Spivey said, speaking after the meeting.
Commissioners Todd Thompson and John Grubb are meeting with department heads to review the proposed cuts and are still looking to cut up to $1.5 million total from all departments, if possible.
As of press time, Davidson had not reviewed the final proposed cuts for the police and other departments, so she was unable to comment on the outcomes.
“I just hope they do it fairly,” she said.