Union Police Chief Norm Brune now has an idea of just how much money his department will receive in Prop P sales tax revenue.
Franklin County voters overwhelmingly approved the proposition at the April 3 municipal election. The half-cent sales tax was sold to voters as a way to pay for upgrades and expansion of the county adult detention center and 911 facility, and increase compensation for law enforcement officers.
At a meeting Tuesday, county and municipal law enforcement officials crunched the numbers and presented police departments an idea of how much money should be expected annually.
Based on 2017 sales tax figures, each law enforcement entity would have received roughly $13,692 per commissioned officer. For the Union Police Department, based on its 25 officers, that would total $342,300.
While that number could change based on sales tax receipts, it’s a starting point for the city of Union, Brune said.
The city’s fiscal year starts July 1. Discussion on the new budget has already begun and will continue in the coming weeks.
Brune said figuring out the impact of Prop P will be part of the discussion.
The tax will begin to be collected at Franklin County businesses in October and the first disbursements to municipalities will be in January 2019.
County Auditor Tammy Vemmer said the Prop P funds will be disbursed from the county monthly.
Brune said he’s not sure just how the money will be allocated. He said voters were promised officers would get raises, and that’s how he sees the money being used. The question is, how much?
Brune said the city has to be careful since the funds are based on sales tax.
His department could give every officer a raise and allocate 100 percent of the Prop P funds. However, if the next year is a down year for sales tax collection, the city would have to make some tough choices.
If the Prop P revenue doesn’t cover the raises, officers would either have to take a pay cut or the raises would have to be paid for out of the general fund.
Other questions that need to be figured out are when the raises would begin. The city won’t have the money yet when the fiscal year starts.
The city could implement the raises at the start of the fiscal year and pay for the increase out of the general fund. Or the city could wait until the funds are collected.
The ultimate decision will be made by the board of aldermen. Brune said he and City Administrator Russell Rost will have a chance to weigh in, but he was confident everything would be worked out.
Prop P doesn’t limit how departments can spend the money. Other departments around the county have talked about using the funds to add staff.
Brune said Union may add officers, too, but it’s not because of Prop P.
Union is a fast-growing city and the demands of the police department are increasing, Brune said. Even before Prop P was considered, Brune said he felt the department might benefit from an additional officer or two.
More officers are needed to handle the increase in calls, but Brune said the job itself has changed so much since when he first started in 1975.
He said as a rookie officer, he could do a DWI report in about two hours. The report would be about one page.
Now, it takes two officers to handle a DWI report, the paperwork totals eight to 10 pages and the entire process takes about four hours.
Domestic assault cases also require more work than they used to — and for a good reason. Brune said in the old days, warnings were usually the solution. Now each incident requires two officers and usually ends in an arrest.
Brune said incidents don’t end with the cuffs, either. Officers spend more time helping and listening victims.
“Things have changed dramatically,” he said. “The changes have been for the good.”
Funding Locked In
With the extra funds from Prop P, Brune said talks about adding to the department are likely.
If the department does add officers, it won’t change the amount of funding the department receives.
Prop P funding is based on the number of officers at the start of 2017. For Union, that means they’ll receive funds for 25 officers no matter how large the department grows.
Brune said locking in the number of officers prevents a department from skewing the numbers. For example, he said with the projected $342,000, he could use that money to pay for four new officers and not give any raises.
If Union wasn’t locked into 25 officers, Brune said he could then ask for the Prop P funds to be disbursed based on his larger 29-officer staff. That would mean Union would get a bigger piece of the pie at the expense of other departments.
By locking in the number of officers now, and not adjusting it in the future, departments in the county won’t be impacted negatively by the growth of other jurisdictions.
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