BETHLEHEM The latest report presented by Bethlehem’s Budget Advisory Committee identified about $550,000 worth of potential savings in the town’s Police Department, but police brass say the force is already limited.
“Public safety is expensive,” said Police Chief Louis Corsi at a Town Board meeting held on Wednesday, July 11, at which the report was discussed. “We have cut everything to the bone. I’m working understaffed and if we continue in that course, it’s not going to rest with me, it’s going to rest with the board.”
Recommendations in the report included freezing police hiring for a year, reducing the amount of overtime and response to non-emergency calls by officers and requiring a 4 percent reduction in contractual services. Another suggestion was to “re-think” the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program taught in schools that is mostly paid for by the town.
At $18.2 million, the Police Department represents about 43 percent of the town’s General Fund budget for 2012.
According to the committee’s report, money could be saved by allowing civilians or other agencies to handle the nearly 7,500 calls deemed “non-emergencies” that come in each year. An estimated $50,000 to $150,000 could be saved by allowing someone outside of the force to respond to calls about issues such as animal control, home and car lockouts and checking on residents.
“It could be potential savings in costs, but more importantly it could be potential savings in efficiencies,” said Chris Kidera, co-chair of the committee. She said agencies like AAA could take over many of the non-emergency services currently provided by police.
To reduce overtime costs, the report suggested a one-week vacation buyback that could save up to $25,000. The elimination of the classification of roll call at the start of shifts would save $75,000 according to the report, but that is a contractual obligation with the police union.