WARREN - Voters in Cortland are being asked this election to approve funding for the police department that officials say will stave off a $160,000 projected operating deficit at the end of 2013.
And avoiding a deficit prevents potential cuts to the police force.
Replacing a 3-mill, continuous levy approved by city voters in 1996 with the same millage now will raise an extra $95,000 a year to run the police department, and, according to Finance Director Frances Moyer, get the force through the end of next year without a deficit.
The end of 2013 coincides with the expiration of the most recent three-year labor agreement with police officers, which spread out a 4 percent pay increase over the length of the contract. Wages were frozen in the last year of the previous contract.
''So what we're trying to do with this levy, basically is to maintain the level of services we have now without having to make any additional types of cuts to those services or to our ability to provide the quality of services ... to our residents,'' Moyer said.
A replacement levy raises tax collections to match current property values.
The levy raises about $305,000 now and, if replaced, it will raise a hair more than $400,270 a year, Moyer said. The cost to the owner of a home with an assessed value of $100,000 would be about $24 a year.
The police department's budget, a little less than $1 million last year, is fully funded by levys totaling 8 mills. It's not subsidized by the city's general fund, but there has been occasion when advances from it to the police budget have been made. Those loans are repaid, Moyer said.
''The reasoning behind that is it gives the taxpayer the ability to have some say in supporting their police department and fire department and the level of services and their satisfaction,'' Moyer said. ''It also doesn't co-mingle the money.''
Newly minted police chief, Tom Andrews said the additional funding would maintain the department, which has nine full-time and five part-time officers. The department also has four reserve officers, and there are plans to increase that number in the next couple months. Reserve officers aren't paid and are required to work at least 24 hours a month.
There's also a plan to get the city back on a cycle to purchase one new cruiser each year to replace vehicles that are about 10 years old, Andrews said.
Andrews said he has been able to return a detective to the force by rearranging schedules and by being a working chief answering calls. He's also revamped the reserve officer program, and the department has a school resource officer in the Lakeview School District, whose pay and benefits have been augmented by the district.
Andrews said he's all for exploring a merger of the city's and Bazetta's police departments. ''I think it's something we need to look to persue down the road,'' he said.
Already, the departments share resources to offset some training costs and both departments often use the other agency's officers to handle calls when the primary agency cannot. People are becoming accustomed, he said, to seeing an officer from another department answer their call.
''I think that will start to bridge the gap of this Cortland vs. Bazetta mentality that has been for more years, too long, and get people on board, thinking why aren't we starting to look at this more realistically,'' Andrews said.