Mount Joy: Budget crunch revisited
Collapse of police concessions spurs new Mount Joy budget crunch BY K. SCOTT KREIDER, Correspondent
Mount Joy Borough officials grappled with reining in police costs on Monday after a police concessions agreement that was key to passing a balanced budget last December flopped.
Although council has not made any decisions on how to respond to the failed agreement, some council members discussed the possibility of cutting police officers.
"We got the balanced budget with the understanding that these things in this letter were going to happen," council member Robert Golicher said at the meeting. "So if that is not going to happen, is it then back to plan B (cutting officers)?"
Council president Chris Metzler said council needs more information before it considers cutting officers.
In December, as the borough faced a $400,000 budget gap, council discussed ways to reduce costs in the police department. One of the possibilities was reducing the size of the police force.
As a way of maintaining the current number of officers, the Mount Joy Borough Police Officers Association offered concessions to help close the budget gap. Among the proposed concessions was a freeze of the contractual salary increase scheduled for this year.
During its final budget meeting in December, council and the officers association came to a last-minute verbal agreement for more than $67,000 in concessions -- a key savings measure that allowed the borough to narrowly pass a balanced budget.
Since then, the borough and police union have been in negotiations to put the agreement into contractual language.
In March, those negotiations came to a halt, and the memorandum was abandoned, adding new budget challenges for the borough.
A statement from the officers association released Monday reads, "The MJBPOA had proposed voluntary concessions to alleviate the Borough's budget deficit; however, Borough Council refuses to accept the Association's offer and considers laying off a police officer."
In a phone interview Wednesday, Scott Hershey, borough manager, said, "There was language we couldn't get together on on one of the items (of the agreement)."
Hershey reiterated that council hadn't made any decisions in regard to cutting officers.
After the meeting Monday, council member William Hall said, "We thought we did (make an agreement), but when the lawyers put it on paper … ."
"It didn't look as good as it did in December," Metzler interjected.
Now that the agreement has fizzled, the borough is required to reimburse officers to meet the terms of the original contract.
"The association has agreed to allow the borough 30 days to complete full reimbursement," Golicher said at the meeting.
That unforeseen cost added a level of urgency for council to address the issue soon.
"Every day the hole gets deeper. Time is not on our side," Hall said.
"We have to address it. We don't have the money not to address it," Metzler said. "We're going to have to take a look at what that whole cost is, to know exactly the dollars we're looking at."
Although the recently announced retirement of John O'Connell -- formerly police chief and more recently a sergeant -- will win the borough some unforeseen savings, it won't be enough to offset the cost of the failed agreement, Hershey said.
Council members agreed to address the issue at the next public safety meeting, on April 22.
The meeting will start at 6 p.m.
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