Council OKs budget, adding fourth full-time cop

No new taxes and one new cop – that’s the 2019-20 Oxford Village budget in a nutshell.

Last week, council voted 4-0 to approve a budget for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. Councilman Dave Bailey was absent.

The central component of it is a general fund with revenues and expenditures balancing at $1.978 million.

“I feel confident this is the best (budget) we could produce. I feel pretty good about it,” said Councilwoman Kate Logan, who noted council “pulled some serious extra hours putting this together.”

The general fund continues to be supported by a property tax rate of 10.62 mills, which is expected to generate $1.153 million.

That’s been the village rate since 2010.

One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s taxable value.

Under the new budget, the general fund has a starting fund balance of $571,373, which equals 28.89 percent of the expenditures for the year.

The fund balance contains cash reserves that can be spent or saved at the municipality’s discretion. The Government Finance Officers Association recommends maintaining a minimum fund balance equal to two months of normal operations, which works out to approximately 17 percent.

In order to balance revenues and expenditures for the 2019-20 budget, the village will dip into its fund balance and use $43,232.

While using reserve monies to balance a budget isn’t an ideal situation, village Manager Joseph Madore noted that on the “bright side,” this budget contains the last payment for capital improvement bond debt incurred in 2005. That $233,343 is due March 1, 2020.

“I think we (will) all breathe easy next year when that final bond payment is made,” he told council. “There’s a lot of light at the end of the tunnel.”

The largest portion of the general fund budget is the $787,180 to operate the police department. Under the new budget, one full-time police officer will be added.

Currently, the department is staffed by three full-time officers, five part-timers and Chief Mike Solwold. The chief is a full-time employee but his primary role is that of administrator, not an officer working shifts, patrolling the streets and responding to calls.

According to Solwold, the addition of a fourth full-time officer will return the department’s staffing level to where it was prior to 2008.

As a result the Great Recession, which lasted from December 2007 to June 2009 and was the longest economic downturn since World War II, the department had to cut one full-time cop from its payroll.

Since then, this fourth position in the schedule has been filled using a combination of part-time officers. Even the chief has helped fill in.

“It was definitely a lot of work on our end to make that work over the years,” Solwold said. “We were hoping that when things picked up (with the economy), we could get that position back again.”

Under the new budget, Solwold said the agency will be able to cover all of its 12-hour shifts with a full-time officer seven days a week.

According to Solwold, hiring another full-time officer will cost the department an additional $58,956 annually, which is only $3,179 more than it would cost to continue using part-time personnel.

Having part-time officers covering a 40-hour shift costs $37,647 annually. Add to that the $18,130 the department spends to train and provide uniforms for an average of two new officers per year “due to constant” turnover, according to Solwold, and the cost of filling that fourth position is currently $55,777.

In a previous memo to the village manager, Solwold explained there’s a high turnover rate with part-time officers because they view the department as “a temporary stop” to keep their certifications current “until they find full-time employment elsewhere.”

“I’ve seen some good officers come and go,” the chief said.

Solwold wrote that adding a fourth full-time position will allow Oxford “to compete with other communities to keep quality officers here” by offering them an opportunity to “make a career, plant their roots, start a family and call (this place) home.”

As part of the 2019-20 budget, the village is planning to hire a part-time employee to handle marketing and communications for it and the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). To pay this person, the village budgeted $20,000 and the DDA budgeted $6,600.

“We’re looking at going back to doing more resident-focused communication . . . We need somebody with the skill set (to) work both electronically and in print to really increase the transparency and information flow within the village,” said DDA Executive Director Glenn Pape.

Pape said communicating with the public is going to be especially important next year during the M-24 reconstruction project and the revamping of downtown’s streetscape.

“Basically, that person . . . is going to be responsible for pushing out information about everything that’s going on,” he said.

Information about the M-24 project is currently available on the DDA portion of the village’s website www.villageofoxford.org.

“We put a new ‘frequently asked questions’ page up . . . and the detour map is up there,” Pape said. “Our construction survival guide is up on the website now.”

Pape noted “the whole communication blitz” regarding the M-24 project will begin following the start of the 2019-20 school year.

He said if the DDA and village do it now, “people will forget about it and we’d have to just do it all over again.”

 

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