LINTON, Ind (WTHI) - The prospect of cutting two police officers from an already-modest police force isn’t sitting well with many in the Greene County city of Linton.
But the mayor and city council members, who viewed 2014’s proposed budget for the first time Monday afternoon, must find a way to cut some $300,000 from next year’s spending plan: the result of lost revenue many municipalities are facing as well.
"Nobody appreciates the police department more than I do,” Mayor John Wilkes told a small crowd, many of whom members of the police department, at city hall Monday.
Wilkes said the serious loss in revenue next year can be summed up in three fiscal hits the city did not expect: the loss of $168,000 in property taxes, due to the 2008 “tax cap” law; $74,000 the city cannot lean on, thanks to a reduced county-option income tax; and roughly $66,000 the city pays toward the salaries of two 911 dispatchers, a tab typically shared with county government.
Mayor Wilkes made it clear he finds no pleasure slicing from the police department; at the same time, Wilkes explained, police and fire combined account for 94 percent of the city’s annual operating costs.
Opponents to Wilkes’s proposal were quick to offer caution.
Paul Clark, a Linton city police officer and current president of the Fraternal Order of Police, told the mayor and council members that officers in his line of work always anticipate “that day.”
"That day could be an armed felon on a traffic stop, who's decided he's not going back to prison; it could be a domestic disturbance that's one too far! It could be a man with a gun who's disgruntled who's going through his workplace,” Clark told the crowd.
The chief of police isn’t thrilled either about the prospect of having to let two officers go; two men in uniform, on a force that only has 11, the chief included.
"I've done this for almost 20-years now, and the streets are not the same! Policing is not the same! You know, we didn't have meth when I started,” Police Chief Troy Jerrell shared with News 10 at the conclusion of Monday’s hearing.
A privately hired accountant from Indianapolis suggested to the panel some potential money-making alternatives: things like federal grants specifically designed for public safety use, she explained; and user fees Linton could look into for the public’s use of the parks, for one example.
Mayor Wilkes said he’s exploring all options, and council members will too.
"And we're going to have to come-up with $300,000! And if we don't, I do not want -- on my watch -- to be a little Detroit -- where this city would have to file bankruptcy,” Wilkes said in the public meeting.
He told News 10 the budget must be formally approved in time for the city’s October 14 meeting.
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