Madison Township trustees have unanimously approved a tentative 2013 budget that includes additional money for the police department.
The overall budget of $12,537,635 includes department allocations of $8,074,535 for fire, $761,000 for roads and $2,543,750 for police.
It also includes general fund revenue of $1.2 million and expenditures of $1,158,350, according to Township Administrator Susan Brobst, who said the overall 2013 budget shows an increase of approximately 1.2 percent over last year's figures.
And although trustee Gary McDonald eventually joined Victor Paini and Edward Dildine in approving the document, he continues to raise questions about police scheduling and expenditures.
The police department allocations in the tentative 2013 budget reflect an increase from the 2012 amount of $2,494,000.
Before the Dec. 17 vote on the 2013 budget, trustees held special meetings on Dec. 7 and 14. According to the meeting notices issued by Brobst, the special sessions were meant to give trustees and city staff members time to full discuss McDonald's concerns and to gather any statistics trustees' might need to make an informed decision.
Both meetings met mandatory public notification rules, but McDonald said the Dec. 7 meeting at 7:30 a.m. was scheduled too hastily to allow for public participation.
"I protested ... on the grounds that it was not in the best interest of the citizens ... being set at (7:30 a.m.) as the business they wanted to discuss should be -- and could have been -- handled at the budget meeting and through a regular session of a trustees' meeting," McDonald said.
"The purpose of the meeting was a work session to discuss the ongoing issues with the police department," Police Chief Gregory Ryan said. "McDonald wasn't part of the decision process that occurred before he was elected so we tried to include him, but he chose not to be a part of it."
Because of the Dec. 17 hearing, Ryan said he needed to complete an accurate budget proposal that included the Reserve Officer program and overtime scheduling. He said he met with his sergeants to come up with scheduling options to present to trustees.
"We've presented the trustees with our options and we'll have to make some decisions based on that information," he said. "Our Special Complaint Action Team (SCAT) could be any officers but it happens to be that (officers Darrell Breneman and Eric Rose) are in these positions, and the other trustees support this program so we are going to continue.
"We said in the levy we're going to update our fleet too, so we are doing that."
McDonald said those scheduling options did not include returning Breneman and Rose back to regular patrol duty, something he clashed with Ryan about previously.
"My argument is that we are not a large department and don't have the same resources that other agencies have," McDonald said. "We need to stick with the basic police services and provide a quality service with the officers we have, and we cannot afford to provide and dedicate officers to a specialized unit."
He contends that placing Rose and Breneman back into the patrol schedule "would eliminate any possible overtime issues."
According to information prepared by Ryan, 10.5 percent of the shifts in 2012 had only one patrol officer on the street. The report also showed that, had the township paid overtime to put a second patrol on duty during those affected shifts, it would have cost $13,355.28.
"A detailed report showed only 10 percent of shifts have one officer out. The (trustees) authorized overtime as needed, within reason, to reduce this figure," Brobst said. "All three trustees voted yes for the temporary appropriations budget at the meeting, which includes additional overtime, continuing with police cruiser replacement and funding for the SCAT program."
McDonald said spending $17,658 in 2012 on tactical weapons, an entry tool, protective gear and tactical team leader training was unnecessary, as is another $30,000 included in the 2013 budget for a SCAT command center vehicle. He said similar services are already provided by the Franklin County Sheriff's Department and the Columbus Police Department.
"Rather than spending money unnecessarily on SWAT-type specialized equipment, this money should have been spent more wisely on the officers and their safety," McDonald said. "That is what the levy was passed for, not to compete with other agencies' programs."