A provision in the proposed 2013 budget for the city of Pickerington that would have allowed for the hiring of a new police officer was sent back for a revision upon the request of Pickerington Police Chief Mike Taylor.
Taylor told City Council at a budget work session Oct. 10 that, while he appreciated council putting money aside in the 2013 fiscal year for an officer, he needs another vehicle even more.
The original budget called for two new patrol cars and one additional officer, however, that was amended by a 7-0 vote after Taylor advised council his fleet needs three new vehicles.
Taylor told council that, of the three of his vehicles that need to be traded in next year, the one with the lowest mileage has 94,600 miles on it.
Another patrol vehicle had to have a new engine installed and another will need transmission work.
"I am between a rock and a hard spot," Taylor said. "We're in dire need of patrol vehicles.
"To give you an idea of why I need cars, we have three cars in the shop and three cars with over 100,000 miles on them," Taylor said.
He said the constant stops and starts patrol vehicles are subjected to puts a substantial amount of wear and tear on them, particularly with patrolling the city's main thoroughfare, state Route 256.
He said a vehicle typically starts to wear down after about 80,000 miles.
"We keep 'nickel' and 'diming' every year," Taylor said.
Pickerington City Manager Bill Vance said he proposed "an additional officer in the 2013 budget" because the city's five-year financial plan had called for the additional officer in 2013.
Vance said he continues to believe the city police department needs additional officers because it "actually provides direct and supporting services to our entire (Violet) Township population plus those appreciated individuals who potentially live elsewhere, but work, eat, or shop in Pickerington on a daily basis."
He said Pickerington's population is 18,500 while Violet Township is more than 45,000.
"A new officer costs about $100,000 with all related salary, benefits, training, uniform and equipment costs being included," Vance said.
"A new police vehicle, fully equipped, costs approximately $40,000," Vance said.
Pickerington City Council unanimously approved in March spending $50,500 to hire a new police officer.
Prior to that, Taylor said the department "... went 10 years without hiring an additional officer."
"We were kind of behind the eight-ball in manpower," Taylor said.
He said he hopes to get a new officer in 2014.
Council also approved, as part of the 2013 budget, moving a part-time dispatcher, who is fluent in Spanish, to a full-time dispatcher's position.
Taylor said the dispatcher "is clearly going to be an asset" and has translated for officers on several occasions.
"A part-time dispatcher at 32 hours a week makes $30,251.52 a year, a full-time dispatcher makes $37,814.40," Taylor said.
Also included in the proposed budget is a speed monitoring device with an expected cost of about $7,000, which Mayor Lee Gray said could also be used by the City Engineering Department for traffic counts.
Vance said the Police Department has an annual operating budget of $4.6 million per year, by far the largest operating budget of the city.
"The rest of the city's other General Fund operating budgets combined equate to $1 million less than the police department at approximately $3.6 million a year," he said.
"The police department budget is proposed to increase $500,000 by the year 2013," Vance said.
Councilman Jeff Fix said with the police department taking such a big chunk out of the city's General Fund, now might be the time to look into replacing the police levy.
"We have an existing levy that was passed many years ago," Fix said.
"If we did a renewal levy it would be the same tax rate for everyone," he said.
"It would put decent incremental revenue into the General Fund to pay for more cops in the street, more cars on the street and pay down debt.
"It makes sense in 2013 to take a look at that to see if the taxpayers are willing to renew that levy,"Fix said.
"It's an overall budget issue," he said.
"The police department takes the highest percentage out of the General Fund, it would be kind of like hitting the 'refresh' button," Fix said.