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Published: Wednesday, 12/6/2006

Sylvania Township police stay out of red ink

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Although Sylvania Township is facing financial shortfalls in some departments in 2007, the police department's proposed budget for next year isn't bleeding red ink.

Robert Metzger, Jr., who has been the township's police chief since July, has outlined to trustees a budget showing nearly $7.5 million in revenue and about $7.2 million in expenses, giving the department a projected carryover balance of about $268,000.

Overall, Sylvania Township anticipates a budget deficit of $2.4 million in 2007, including a $1.4 million shortfall in the fire department; a $772,000 deficit in the general fund, and a $556,000 deficit in the public works department.

Trustees have been discussing in recent weeks possible options to address the deficits, including closing one of the township's four fire stations and laying off several firefighters.

Chief Metzger told trustees that he anticipates that the police department's revenue stream likely would fund the department through 2012, rather than the anticipated 2010. When voters were asked to approve a police department levy in 2004, they were told that the levy would provide sufficient money to operate the department through at least 2010.

The chief admitted that it's difficult to predict the budget that far into the future, but said that he'll be managing the department toward reaching that financial objective.

Trustees have commended Chief Metzger for keeping expenses in line with the department's available revenue. Trustee Pam Hanley said that the chief has done an excellent job of maintaining costs, and Trustee DeeDee Liedel said that she appreciated that the chief was paying close attention to what voters were told when they approved the levy in 2004, such as by meeting the levy commitment for vehicle fleet purchases.

Chief Metzger plans to replace six patrol vehicles in 2007 at a cost of $126,000 and one unmarked vehicle at a cost of $17,000. It makes sense, he said, to replace patrol vehicles on a scheduled rotation basis rather than buying perhaps 10 vehicles one year, and then two more in another year or so. Patrol vehicles typically have 150,000 miles on them when replaced.

Sylvania Township's department has 47 officers and about 16 support staff members.

The police department's 2007 proposed budget reflects a change in the township's accounting system from a cash basis to an accrual basis. This accounting change means that the police department's budget for 2007 includes some additional items, such as $100,000 for building depreciation and $45,000 for a capital improvement program. In the past, the department's budget did not include such items.

Chief Metzger noted that his budget projection includes all of the accounting changes, and he said that the department is very fortunate that it has levy dollars available to cover the expenses included in the new accounting method.

The police department's proposed expenditures for 2007 include $96,000 for communication equipment. The chief plans to purchase 48 portable radios at a cost of about $44,500; 21 mobile radios and one base radio for about $17,000, and accessories for the equipment at $12,000. This equipment will be used as part of the new countywide communication system; the township's cost is about $74,000, but the purchase value is about $262,000, or a price reduction of $188,000 because of a grant/discount price. The new countywide system could be on line next year.



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