Pickerington Times-Sun

City continues to study police funding options

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The discussion about when -- or, if at all -- to place a renewal police levy for Pickerington on the ballot in the future has been put on the back burner, at least until after the new year.

Pickerington officials have had a continuing dialog over the last few months about the viability of a replacement levy to help fund the police department, which receives more than half of its budget from the transfer of General Fund money.

An operating levy now in place that was passed in 2000 at 5.5 mills currently is collected at 3.9 mills because of increased property valuations since that time.

December 5, Pickerington City Council's Finance Committee approved a draft resolution to request an advance distribution of tax money from the operating levy from the Fairfield County Auditor by a 6-0 vote.

According to City Finance Director Chris Schornack, such a resolution is needed for the city to get its money.

"The motion is to simply allow the city to request property tax advances from the County Auditor," Schornack said.

Council approves these resolutions annually giving me permission to request the property tax settlements as funds are received, rather than waiting for the County Auditor to disburse the whole collection amount in one lump sum," Schornack said.

Pickerington City Manager Bill Vance is working with Schornack to calculate the police department's operational cost projections from 2013 to 2018.

Schornack stated at the Dec. 5 meeting the five-year forecast will be completed in February or March 2013.

"Council has decided to move the discussion to 2013 as we continue to analyze our five-year projections," Schornack said. "At this point no emergency levy proposal is deemed necessary, so council will continue to discuss as we move into the new year."

Schornack said the police department's reliance on the General Fund will increase by $450,000 in 2013.

He attributed the increase to the hiring of "a new full-time public safety dispatcher, three replacement vehicles, additional officer training and a projected increase in wages based on historical averages."

Pickerington Police Chief Mike Taylor advised City Council at a budget work session Oct. 10 he needed three replacement vehicles rather than the two that were provided for in the 2013 budget.

City Council had put money aside in the 2013 fiscal year for the hiring of a new officer, however, Taylor said his department needed another vehicle more.

"I've got four vehicles right now with over 100,000 miles on them," Taylor said.

"They wear down quick. My trade-in value after 100,000 is a couple hundred bucks at best," he said.

City Council amended the 2013 police budget by a 7-0 vote to allow Taylor to purchase a third vehicle.

He said he appreciated council's support.

"They're doing their best to help me out," Taylor said.

"We went so long without an officer, now what we're doing is playing catch-up," he said.

In the spring of 2012, City Council authorized the hiring of a new officer to specifically address the burgeoning drug problem in the city.

Taylor said he had to make a tough choice for 2013.

"That was my dilemma -- do I take the officer or take the cars?" he said.

"The current financial situation (means) I can't have the officer and the cars."

Taylor was quoted in a previous ThisWeek Pickerington Times-Sun story that his department was "nickel and diming" in regards to ongoing repairs to police vehicles.

He said he wanted to clarify for the record that he was not referring to the level of support from City Council for his vehicle fleet or his department in general.

"When I made that quote, my reference was towards the police vehicles and the repairs," Taylor said.

"I'm looking at $5,000 a motor to put new motors in two cars. I've already spent $10,000 in vehicle repairs just in two cars."

Taylor said of the nine vehicles he has available for patrol, four out of the nine have more than 100,000 miles on them.

He said his department justifiably gets the biggest piece out of the General Fund because "I operate 24 hours a day."

"My guys are well-trained," Taylor said. "You won't find an officer anywhere in the country better trained than my people."

Taylor pointed to a 2011 performance audit conducted by the State Auditor's Office to indicate the department had high degrees of operational efficiency and effectiveness relative to peer departments in Ohio.

 

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