Two New Police Officers : Now What??

Two New Police Officers : Now What??

On Jan 2, 2018, the  Ashland City Council gave the go ahead on funding & hiring the two remaining police officers that Police Chief Tighe O’Meara had requested.

Now the conundrum:  how to pay for them?

This is the issue that took up most of the Council’s attention and debate last night. Watching all the Councilors grappling with this was illuminating. Initially the Councilors took very different views of where to find funding:

Greg Lemhouse & Tracy Darrow were candid that the cost of additional officers should be shared with Ashland visitors (1%-2% increase in TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax)  & possibly a Live Entertainment fee.  Darrow said the City should not ask residents to exclusively carry the cost with a *Public Safety Support Fee added to their utility bills. Darrow felt the second officer  (School Resource Officer) is vital to foster positive interaction between students and officers of the law. Slattery was not convinced the second officer is needed. Stefani Seffinger supported a 1% increase in TOT but also liked the Public Safety Support Fee. She added that when the budget was negotiated last spring, she felt the City let the Police Dept down by not prioritizing police funding at that time. Rich Rosenthal favored the Public Safety Support Fee as a starting point to get the officers here but wants Council to examine all the options and be able to say the Council looked at all possible avenues for $$. Rosenthal, Lemhouse and Darrow are anxious for more details from staff on how the Live Entertainment fee would work. Seffinger and Mayor Stromberg each voiced concern for how the Oregon Shakespeare Festival folks might respond to the Live Entertainment fee in lieu of this year’s lost revenue (smoke cancelled shows).  Dennis Slattery did not endorse an increase in TOT or the Public Safety Support Fee. Slattery floated the idea of hiring one officer now with funding from the budget even if it means “borrowing” from available $$ in the budget and paying it back later. Mike Morris was consistently uncomfortable with hiring any officers now and not having the $$ funded now and he would not commit to Slattery’s “borrowing” plan. Morris agreed with Darrow and Slattery in opposing the Public Safety Support Fee. Throughout the evening, Councilors repeatedly yearned to find excess $$ tucked in the new budget for the officers and implored Mike Welch/staff to suggest areas that might be “milked” for $$. Mayor Stromberg twice reminded the Council that the City is currently down  $1.7 Million in providing the current level of services/personnel costs and the City has increasing PERS approaching.

Conclusion:

                  A motion to hire two officers passed unanimously.

The addendum to fund them with a Public Safety Fee of $2/on utility bill passed 4/2

(Slattery & Darrow voted NO).

A second motion passed for the CC to expedite evaluating all other funding options ASAP.

( Council was clear the Public Safety Support Fee {alone} is a short term funding measure.)

 

*NOTE: The Public Safety Support Fee revenue is solely (dedicated)  for police and not put in the general fund. It would work like this: It is a fee which is added to residents’ utilities ( $1 for one officer and $2 for two officers). It is calculated after property taxes are paid and if property tax revenue goes up the Public Safety Support Fee can be reduced. It can NOT be raised if property taxes go down. (The CC asked Mark Welch – Director of Administrative Services to go on the record on this point on 1-2-18)

 

Susan Hall RN

1-3-18

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//inserted by Sharon