Nov 04, 2011 Amanda Seef Uncategorized
The fate of the East Syracuse Police Department could be in the residents’ hands come spring.
The police contract is set to expire at the end of May and in order for the village to hold the line on taxes, a dissolution of the police department could be necessary to control costs.
“We’re kind of at a crossroads,” said Danny Liedka, mayor of East Syracuse. “Before I would consider entering into another contract, we have to weigh the options.”
The village, which holds the highest tax rate in Onondaga County, faces three options, Liedka said.
The public can vote to abolish the department, keep the police force or the ‘wild card,’ which is to enter a shared-services agreement with the town of DeWitt.
Should the village trustees vote to abolish the department, a village-wide referendum would be held to keep or do away with the police department.
“We’ve got a first-class department, we have great officers,” Liedka said.
A referendum would be held, preferably, by March to decide the fate of the police department, the mayor said. The village trustees would have to vote to abolish the department. If the referendum is held in the spring, the village would be in the midst of budget preparations for the fiscal year of 2012-13, beginning June 1.
“This is not my decision, this is the people’s decision,” Liedka said. “My job is to put the facts out there.”
The village residents would have a net savings of $531.39 should the police department dissolve, without a shared services contract with the town of DeWitt. Town residents would also have a savings — they could see a savings of $9 per $1,000 assessed home value.
Cutting costs now, Liedka said, is imperative due to the state of the village.
“We’re built out,” he said. “We don’t have the luxury to add development to increase the tax base.”
The village could decide to abolish the department and force the dissolution on residents, but that has not proven fruitful in other municipalities.
“Whenever a leader has forced this on the people, it has failed,” Liedka said.
Police Chief Don Morris, who has faced consolidation in Solvay and Liverpool while working in each of those departments, hopes the village decides to keep his department.
“For the residents, we’re a dedicated police force for the village,” Chief Morris said. “We’re not responsible for calls outside of our jurisdiction and with the town [of DeWitt Police Department], they are responsible to provide coverage for the entire town.”
One of the ideas on the table could be entering into a shared services agreement with the town of DeWitt. Should that occur, officers in East Syracuse would likely be added to the DeWitt police payroll. The town of DeWitt has not decided if that would be feasible, however, as they go into arbitration with their own police union.
“I believe the residents of the village appreciate the job the officers do on the daily day-to-day functions. We provide a litany of different functions. We’re out there with the public. If it was to go to the village residents, I’m sure they would voice their opinion, regardless.”
— Chief Don Morris
“That would be one of the challenges for the town if they took over the policing in the village,” Morris said. “I don’t know if they can actually accomplish that, because if there were calls outside of the village that would require police presence, I don’t believe they’d be able to keep that car in the village and justify the police presence.”
Whatever happens to the police department, Liedka hopes to keep the six full-time officers, administrative employee, police chief and seven part-time officers employed.
“If people want their police department, they have to vote on it and understand the impact [on taxes],” Liedka said.
Public hearings and board meetings will be held prior to a referendum, should that occur.
“I believe the residents of the village appreciate the job the officers do on the daily day-to-day functions,” Morris said. “We provide a litany of different functions. We’re out there with the public. If it was to go to the village residents, I’m sure they would voice their opinion, regardless.”