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The Lake News Online
  • Laurie Police Department continues on strapped budget

  • The Laurie Police Department will continue to operate with one less officer than normal until at least next month as the board of aldermen reviews staffing options in the wake of a tough financial report.
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    • Laurie Police Department

      358 calls for service in April


      1,219 calls for service year-to-date in 2014


      $254,350 budget for 2014 (not including court budget)


      5 percent above projected expenses...

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      Laurie Police Department

      358 calls for service in April



      1,219 calls for service year-to-date in 2014



      $254,350 budget for 2014 (not including court budget)



      5 percent above projected expenses as of April budget report

  • The Laurie Police Department will continue to operate with one less officer than normal until at least next month as the board of aldermen reviews staffing options in the wake of a tough financial report.
    An independent audit of 2013 financial statements by Officer CPA Firm showed the city's general fund reserves had fallen to a three-month operating reserve. In other words, the municipality's savings could continue operations with no revenue for three months if needed.
    "That's cutting it pretty short on maintaining the reserve balance," said Officer, who recommended the board watch the budget closely this year.
    "2013 was not a very good year for revenues," she also commented with the city seeing an overall 9 percent decrease in sales tax revenues from 2012 to 2013.
    The City of Laurie's total fund balance for the general fund was $658,788 at the end of 2013 in comparison to $1,023,579.
    Much of the difference, however, can be attributed to the purchase of the new city hall. Without that one-time expense that should be paid back through rent of the upper floor of the building, the loss for the year would have been $22,000, according to CPA Lisa Officer.
    The audit presentation at the May 13 board meeting followed on the heels of poor sales tax revenue reports for March and April, both down in 2014 compared to 2013.
    On the bright side, the city made up financial ground for the year in its May reporting of sales tax revenue, seeing a $5,942 increase from last year in its 1 percent sales tax.
    This tax is Laurie's main revenue source for the general fund.
    The increase boosted year-to-date revenue from the 1 percent sales tax from almost 12 percent down compared to 2013 to approximately 6 percent down. The city still has its typically best sales tax months - June and September - in front of it.
    Full-time Chief Mark Black, three full-time officers and two part-time reserve officers have been covering the city 24-hours a day since the fourth full-time officer was let go earlier this year. The termination was approved by the board in a special closed meeting March 5.
    Keeping the city covered in the last couple of months has been a struggle, according to Black, who asked the board of aldermen at its May 13 meeting to allow him to go ahead and fill the open full-time position.
    Instead the board tabled the issue at Aldermen Greg Lux's request - seconded by Alderwoman Val Ites - to review Black's scheduling of officers for the next month to see if it would be more economical to fill in with the reserves and overtime by the full-time officers and chief or with a fourth full-time officer.
    According to Black, scheduling has been difficult since the city dropped the fourth officer. Reserves cannot always cover a shift because they have jobs elsewhere. When that happens, one of the full-time officers has to come in on their day off and be paid overtime or the chief has to cover it.
    Page 2 of 2 - The department utilizes an overlay shift to cover the city round the clock with back-up for officers. Black said he does not want to see the department go down to one officer on duty or ask officers to regularly pull double shifts or come in on their day off.
    It's not safe and it's been hard on morale, he said.
    The city has seen a burgeoning number of calls for service since Black took over as chief in 2012. At that time, the department averaged around 200 responses a month, according to Black. Now, in spite of the board shifting bad check restitution services from its police department to the Morgan County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, the LPD has seen its calls for service increase to an average of 350 per month.
    In addition to calls within the city growing, Black says the LPD is providing more mutual aid to Sunrise Beach Police Department and the Morgan County Sheriff's Office.
    The growing numbers of calls are also becoming more serious in nature, according to Black.
    This is not the first time the police department has been the cross-hairs of budget cuts as the city has faced flat and declining revenues for several years.
    The board of aldermen down-sized the police department from five full-time officers to four in 2010.
    As new police cars have been needed in recent years, the vehicles have been funded through the street sales tax fund rather than out of the police department budget.
     
    General Fund numbers
    $664,255 total budget including police department, court, administration, streets
    $686,100 projected in revenues for 2014
    $15,206 May 2014 sales tax revenue report compared to $9,254 in May 2013
    7 percent below projected revenues as of April budget report
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