Salisbury Township police officers filled normally empty chairs at the board of commissioners meeting last week to show support for their department’s 2012 budget requests.
Police Chief Allen W. Stiles has asked for an additional four-wheel drive vehicle and an additional officer to fill an expected vacancy in the 19-man police force.
Township Manager Randy Soriano presented the board with a but left the police department’s requests partially filled.
The township is facing an expected $900,000 deficit due to shortfalls in revenue streams over the past two years, including $600,000 in real estate transfer taxes, and belts are tightening all around.
Soriano said commissioners gave him a mandate to find a way to avoid raising taxes. He tried for a balanced budget by shifting certain expenses out of the general fund into self-balancing funds, cutting expenses where possible and leaving positions in police and public works unfilled.
“You don’t raise taxes when it hurts,” said Soriano. He cautioned, however, that the board has used reserves to balance budget for the past three years. “We don’t want to wait too long to supplement revenue,” Soriano said.
Soriano proposed that non-union township employees pay 5 percent toward their health premiums, and that the township lease instead of buy computer equipment and the four-wheel drive vehicle requested by police.
Soriano said the township could save $64,000 in salary and benefits by not hiring a new police officer to fill an expected vacancy created when an officer is promoted to replace retiring
Sgt. Kevin Soberick, immediate past president of the Salisbury Township Police Officer’s Association, said not filling the officer position means “we’ll have one less person and a hole in the schedule. That means more overtime. It’s a lot to fill eight shifts a pay period.”
Township Public Works Director John Andreas said his department could be down by five-and-a-half positions next year due to retirements and vacancies, and he predicts sacrifices in services, such as snow plowing and paving.
Soriano’s proposed cuts included allocations for training and conferences for township employees. “This doesn’t mean you can’t go to conferences,” said Soriano, “it means you would have to come in and get the money appropriated.”
Budget discussions will continue at the next board meeting at 7 p.m. Nov. 22; a vote is expected Dec. 8. The public is always welcome to attend board meetings and offer their comments anytime, said board of commissioners President James Brown.