The costs of policing a village

SILVER CREEK – The change in police coverage for Silver Creek has been a divisive issue for the village. Residents are split between those who continue to support the Silver Creek Police Department and those who believe the transition to the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office will decrease taxes.

One of the major unanswered questions has been: Will the village save money?

The OBSERVER sent a Freedom of Information Law request to the Silver Creek Village Clerk’s Office in June and recently received figures back for the costs of the department for the past five years.

SILVER CREEK POLICE

Prior to June 1, the village of Silver Creek operated its own local police department.

The village paid for salaries and benefits for officers, as well as equipment.

The figures received in the FOIL request represent the amounts spent in the past five years, not the amount budgeted at the beginning of the budget year.

According to the documents provided by the clerk’s office, in 2008-2009, the department cost $515,529, which includes personnel, contractual, capital outlay, retirement and health benefits.

The following year, there was a decrease in the police expenditure to $445,641. This decrease is partially due to a retirement, lowering the cost of retirement benefits and personnel. However, the contractual and capital costs increased. It was noted this increase is likely due to the devastating flood in August 2009. Capital lines are used for equipment like vehicles and contractual is used for everything besides salaries, benefits and capital expenses and can include everything from gasoline to uniforms.

In 2009-2010, there was also a notable increase in capital costs amounting to $13,733 and is likely also attributed to the flood damage. The total cost for that year was $449,557.

In 2010-2011, there was a dramatic increase in the cost of retirement for the department, amounting to over $20,000. This cost is determined by the state.

From 2007-2008 to 2010-2011, the village maintained five full-time officers. However, in 2008 and 2009, there were mid-year hires of full-time officers, meaning there were only four full-time officers for half those years. The department usually employed between two to four part-time officers depending on mid-year resignations or promotions to full-time.

In 2011-2012, the contractual costs almost doubled, with an increase of $18,510. The total cost for the year was $528,772.01.

During this year, the department lost two officers in July, another in September and another in January 2013. The village hired another full-time officer in September ,but the other two full-time officers lost were not replaced. The village also had turnover in its part-time staff, with two part-time officers leaving in March and April, one promoted to full time in May and three hired in the months of July, September and November and only one part-timer employed for the full fiscal year.

The exact expenditures for the 2012-2013 budget year were not available. However, the amended budget included $67,000 for retirement, $408,511 for personnel, contractual and capital outlay. A document from the village said $15,517 was spent on health insurance for the two full-time officers from March 2012 to July 2013.

The two full-time officers were employed until June when the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s took over patrolling the village.

COVERAGE

TRANSFERRED

After the election in March, the result of which was two new trustees on the board and Nick Piccolo elected as mayor, the board constructed a budget with policing options in mind.

The village board approved the 2013-2014 budget with $330,000 in the mayor’s contractual line to be spent on police coverage and $12,000 for gasoline in the police budget. No other funds were budgeted in the police budget lines.

The Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office began patrolling the village on June 1. The village had worked out a contract with Sheriff Joseph Gerace for 24-7 police coverage with extra coverage for special events for two years retroactive to June 1, with quarterly payments of $91,315 for 2013-2014 and $94,413 for 2014-2015, not including fuel cost.

Compared to the 2011-2012, actual expenditures of the Silver Creek Police Department at full staff (adjusting for fuel cost but not for inflation), this contract would have saved the village more than $150,000 in the first year. This savings would be less when figuring for 2012-2013 due to significant understaffing.

On June 27, the County Legislature approved the village’s enhanced police protection contract only until the end of the year due to concerns with the amount to be paid and that the contract was set in motion before it was approved by the legislature.

The village intends to meet with the town of Hanover and the village of Forestville to see what can be worked out for police coverage to try to create a savings for all entities.

The village of Forestville currently does not contract for enhanced police coverage.

Hanover contracts with the sheriff’s office for enhanced coverage but in the last contract had to eliminate a morning shift in the winter months in order to balance the budget and receive increased coverage in Sunset Bay during the summer. Hanover Supervisor Todd Johnson recently complained at a town board meeting that between the village and the town, it will soon cost $1 million to police the area.

At a recent village board meeting, Piccolo said he is pleased with the services the sheriff’s office is providing and received a 17-page report for the month of June, which included vandalism and drug arrests in the park and a drug bust on Elm Street.

He said the village has not received a bill from the sheriff’s yet. He also mentioned the legislature may be reconsidering approving the agreement with the village at all, but has agreed to hold off until the village meets with the town to discuss shared services.

Comments on this article may be sent to ngugino@observertoday.com