Madison Township officials wary about budget effects from COVID-19

SCOTT GERFEN
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Madison Township police Chief Gary York says his department has enough manpower to protect residents despite concerns brought up at a recent township trustees meeting.

York and trustees addressed questions raised by resident Debbie Miller, who asked during trustees' July 14 meeting about police staffing levels and possible future hires.

"When you look at the overall cost to operate the police department and the revenue we have coming in, it's pretty close to where we'd be at full staff," York said during a telephone interview last week.

The township police department, which patrols 40 square miles, has at least two officers on duty for each of the three shifts per day, with a total of 16 full-time officers who are in the middle of negotiating a new contract with the township, York said.

"It's usually more officers than that; it just depends on the day of the week," he said.

According to Laurie Vermeer, township fiscal officer, the police department's annual budget is nearly $3 million, but she is concerned about 2020 property-tax revenues and the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic on the township budget.

Madison Township's police and fire departments both are funded through property taxes, and second-half collections have been delayed from August to October.

"I have no idea what the rest of the year holds," Vermeer said after the meeting. "We just don't know what we're going to get, and the county hasn't given us any projections. Theoretically, we're supposed to get another $918,000."

Trustee Michele Reynolds said during the meeting that many local governments are dealing with the same situation. She also noted a hiring freeze is in effect at the state level.

"Right now, with COVID-19 and the economy, we're basically holding our own," board Chairman John Pritchard said after the meeting. "We don't know what the rest of the year will bring. If we have to tread water for a while, we have to tread water."

Fire Chief Derek Robinson told trustees that five smaller staff vehicles are due to be replaced this year because of normal wear and tear, but he agreed to scale back his request.

"We'd like to replace three and put two off to next year," he said.

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