by Terry Rogers
On Monday, June 25, Milford City Council approved a request from Chief Kenneth Brown to hire five new police officers for Milford Police Department. Funding for the new officers will be paid from the city’s water reserves. The estimated total for all three years is $1,275,000.
“The Police Commission requested that staff prepare a report outlining the range of options, including reserve funds or increasing property taxes for City Council to consider, along with pros and cons,” Eric Norenberg, City Manager, said. “The proposal from Mayor Campbell was to pay the cost to hire, train and equip the five new police officers for three years using the water reserve funds.” Norenberg says that the transfer from water reserves is a temporary solution to hire the new officers. At the meeting, Mayor Archie Campbell suggested that transferring from water reserves was a better solution than raising taxes in the City.
The City Council Police Committee discussed the matter during a meeting on June 13. During that meeting, the City Manager reviewed a report presented during the January 31 Police Committee meeting that outlined the increase in taxes necessary to cover the cost of five officers. On a home with an appraised value of $100,000 $43 a year would be necessary and on a home with an appraised value of $200,000 an increase of $86 a year would be necessary. ”
As of June 30, 2018, the water reserve fund had a balance of $8,581,586. “The anticipated balance of the water reserve fund after planned, budgeted equipment purchases and projects during FY18-19 should be $4,555,560 by June 30, 2019,” Norenberg said. “We anticipate the officers starting September 1 for the academy, so the prorated expense for the five new officers for this fiscal year is approximately $320,000. As a result, the balance at the end of the fiscal year would be revised to $4,235,560. The approximate annual cost for five officers is $425,000. Since that will increase with any pay increases, healthcare cost increases, benefit cost increases, etc., the amount deducted from the water reserves for the next two years will be slightly higher than that. And, of course, there will be routine water system capital improvement projects, equipment replacement, etc. in those years as well.”
Norenberg explained that cities often establish formal policies related to the use of utility reserve funds. In some cases, they may establish minimum fund balances, restrictions regarding use as well as controls regarding transfers or loans from the funds. Milford has never established those policies which is how the water reserve funds could be used to cover the cost of five additional police officers. Council has requested that staff help develop options for establishing those policies for each of the enterprise fund reserves, including water, wastewater, electric and solid waste.
“These five officers are going to help tremendously,” Chief Kenneth Brown said. “We are running short-handed right now, so our guys are spending their time only running calls. We really aren’t able to do any proactive stuff right now, like downtown patrols. Everyone wants radar in their neighborhood, but we only have so many officers available to do that right now. These additional officers will also improve the safety of other officers on the force as they are sometimes unable to get the backup support they need.”
Chief Brown said that the department has already started taking applications and will soon begin the interview process. The new hires will be sent to the academy in September and will spend six months in training there. Once they graduate, they then spend another three months riding with a seasoned officer. If Council had not approved the officers, it is possible Milford would have missed the deadline to register for the September academy which would have meant waiting until March to begin official training.
“Right now, we are down a K9 officer,” Chief Brown said. “I didn’t fill it right away because it is an additional six month training program and we couldn’t spare an officer for the training. I also want to send someone to FBI Training so they are prepared when I decide to retire in the future. When I started on the force, we had 20 officers and 2 detectives. Today, we have 32 officers and 2 detectives. My plan is to put four of the new officers on patrol and one on the detective squad.”
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