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Published: Thursday, 8/9/2001

Sylvania Twp. police awash in red ink

BY JASON WILLIAMS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Sylvania Township trustees and its police chief might institute layoffs in the 63-member department to get control of a budget that is running in the red.

In mid-July, township officials estimated the deficit was about $660,000 and think the year will end with the department spending $859,000 more than revenues. The problem could be related to miscalculation of funds in several areas, they said.

“Our last option is to lay off people,” Trustee Dock Treece said. “That's the last thing we want to do. ... The lay-off decisions would be made by the police chief,” he said. “Everybody is committed to getting this thing back in line.”

To cut costs, township officials and Chief Wayne Seely have eliminated voice mail for the department, including for detectives, cut off cell phones and pagers for non-supervisors, and developed a new schedule.

The schedule, which starts next month, attempts to cut back on overtime.

The township has paid $149,636.19 in overtime for the period ending July 28 for the police department. The objective is to get overtime down to prevent overworked and stressed officers, Mr. Treece said. In large part, voice mail was eliminated because trustees wanted a person to answer the phone, Mr. Treece said.

“I'm not convinced we are going to lay off anybody,” Chief Seely said. “I need to check the numbers so I can give the trustees the best advice that I can.”

In another budget-tightening move, investigators have been reassigned to road patrol.

“I've changed a couple of assignments. Our basic responsibility is patrol and that's what we are getting back to,” Chief Seely said. “I know these changes will have a significantly impact on overtime.”

Trustees and Chief Seely have discussed the problem and identified cost overruns and the expiration of grants as reasons for the deficit.

In the past three years, the department has seen increases in salaries, worker's compensation payouts, insurance, and retirement.

Township officials are checking those numbers.

The figures for workers' compensation seem high and they might be wrong, Mr. Treece said. In 2000, worker's compensation cost $144,133 for the year.

In mid-July, the amount had soared to $270,226.

“That's coming out my budget whether it's right or not,” Chief Seely said. “These June figures exceed mathematical logic,” he said. In 2000, the department paid $449,471 for retirement. The figure for mid-July was already $359,729.

“We've got to find out why those numbers are out of budget,” Mr. Treece said.

If retirement, worker's compensation, overtime, and insurance were on budget, the department would have been $13,000 ahead in June, Mr. Treece said.

The investigation has brought more questions than answers.

“We believe that it will take a team approach to solve these issues,” Chief Seely said. “We pledge to continue to provide the highly professional, yet cost-effective service to our community."

Overtime is an issue with trustees.

“The thing that is out of proportion is the overtime being spent,” said George Fanning, trustee chairman who was scheduled to retire this month.

“Worker's comp has more than doubled. That's one thing we have no control over and can't figure into your budget,” Mr. Fanning said. “They are going have to see how to get this budget back in line.”

Chief Seely submitted a budget reduction proposal in June calling for the elimination of cell phones, a district police station, pagers, the citizens academy, the school resource officer at Southview High School, the K-9 program, and options on reducing overtime.

Community programs will remain in place. Chief Seely said the community reduction proposals were not formal and were included to share cost information.

Chief Seely said the number of cell phones cut was not that significant.

“It's not like we have 100 cell phones,” he said. As for voice mail, he said, its elimination is “not life-threatening.”

In May, Jim Maxwell, township administrator, notified Chief Seely about his concerns about the budget and noted a shortfall then of $229,000.

“We cannot contemplate a new levy to assist with this matter,” Mr. Maxwell wrote. “The general fund, in my opinion, will probably not be sufficient to make up this shortfall.”

As for the layoffs, Mr. Treece said, “if it's necessary to get the budget in balance, it will be done. I can't give a percentage on how likely it is.”



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