Village mayor set to move police to part-time status

CHATHAM–In advance of introducing the proposed annual budget at this week’s Village Board meeting, Mayor Thomas Curran said the spending plan would continue a sharp reduction of Police Department funding and hours, while seeking to make street repairs, bolster a shallow reserve fund and stay under the 2% cap on tax levy increases set by the state.

Mr. Curran said ahead of the Thursday, March 28 meeting, that he hopes to cut village spending on police by $162,814–a reduction of more than 44% from last year’s budget. With his first two budgets, this year and last, Mr. Curran will have cut police funding nearly in half–49.2%. He said he believes his recent reelection is a mandate to continue to reduce the size of the police budget. In 2011, his first year in office, the budget had already been adopted by the previous board.

It is unclear what, if any, police staffing changes will be made, and what the coverage schedule will be.

Starting next year, if Mr. Curran’s budget is adopted, the Police Department will become entirely part-time, saving the village on employee benefits and paid leave.

In 2011, the year Mr. Curran took office, the Police Department comprised more than a third of village expenditures. In the mayor’s proposed budget, police services make up slightly less than 18% of village spending.

Police Chief Kevin Boehme is not allowed to speak publicly on policy issues like Police Department funding due to an agreement Mr. Boehme made with the mayor in exchange for retaining his power as the chief bargaining officer during labor negotiations between the village and the police, despite being in a managerial position. Mr. Boehme negotiated the department’s 2007 contract with his brother, Paul Boehme, who was mayor at the time, as well as a third-party union representative.

Mr. Curran said that raising taxes to pay for Police Department services is not an option, not only because of the 2% tax levy cap, but because of an increasing amount of unpaid taxes. If taxes increased, the mayor said, the village might never see any of the additional revenue, because more village residents would be delinquent.

Revenue from property taxes will decrease 4.8% if Mr. Curran’s budget is adopted, but will remain essentially flat due to an increase in what the mayor said were previously very low water rates. Excluding water and sewer, expenditures have dropped 2.1% from last year.

With the money saved from the Police Department, Mr. Curran expects to consult engineers and undertake a number of sidewalk and street projects, totaling approximately $80,000.

While it’s not been decided exactly which streets the mayor would like to improve, he pointed to Payn and Moore avenues as possibilities due to problems caused for homeowners by poor drainage.

Approximately $50,000 of the mayor’s proposal Curran’s budget is allocated for contingency and will be transferred to the village reserve accounts if it remains unspent. Currently, the village has less than $40,000 in reserve. The state comptroller recommends keeping between 10 and 20% of the yearly budget in reserves, which, for Chatham, would mean almost $120,000.

The new budget also allocates nearly $40,000 in salary for part-time village administrator Barbara Henry, a position the Village Board created in 2012.

Ms. Henry oversees the day-to-day functions of every department and is the village treasurer, working with the village accounting firm. The mayor said this arrangement saves the village money.

 

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