Hubbard Township may cut officers

HUBBARD — Trustees are coming face-to-face with difficult financial decisions that might involve laying off police officers.

Despite township voters in May passing a 1.75-mill, additional police levy, that will generate $156,000 per year to support continued police operations, the township doesn’t know how it is going to pay its officers and are considering laying off some of them.

“We will not see that money until mid-year next year. So it’s going to get tight. It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” said Trustee Fred Hanley.

Trustees asked voters in November to approve the same 1.75-mill additional levy for the department, but it was defeated. Had it passed then, the township would have been able to use the funding in March, instead of having to wait until April 2020.

Earlier this year, trustees took out a $200,000 loan to pay the officers and have been cutting expenses to keep police operations going. But with four police cars needing repairs and loan payments, despite the cuts, the money may not hold out.

Trustees are looking into using money from the drug fund to replace bald tires on a cruiser.

“We are running out of money very, very fast,” said Hanley. “The expenses are going through the roof, and things are not in our favor right now.”

Trustees assured the officers in attendance at Monday’s trustee meeting they will fight for them to keep their jobs.

“Not one of these trustees here wants to lay any one of the officers off. I speak from the heart. We need police protection here, we are taxed out, and the public’s, well, they said they’re taxed off. But we got to find a way,” said Trustee Richard Hernandez. “We’re going to push for you to have a job. That’s why we took a loan of $200,000 to keep this thing going. But how far can we go? The state said you can’t keep taking loans.”

The township police department staffs seven part-time officers and 10 full-time officers.

“I know the part-timers, they don’t want to lose, and they know they’re the first to go. They’ve been the backbone of this department. I want to try to nail down a time frame so I can provide that to them. I know they’re looking, I know they’ve been applying at other departments. I don’t want to lose any of them,” said Chief Todd Coonce.

Part of the burden is the funding cut on local governments by the state. Also, the township stands to lose more local government funding since it uses speed cameras under changes to state law. As of July 3, the amount it makes in fines is subtracted from its local government funds.

“The last time we had problems, we had the general fund that we could dip into, and now with all of these cuts, we don’t have anything in it to raid,” said fiscal officer Sue Ann Goterba.

According to Goterba, the township’s state funding has been cut by 52 percent since 2005.

The trustees are discussing ways to solve this financial issue and are exploring many options, including regionalization and having the Trumbull County Auditor’s Office re-evaluate the township’s finances.