Chester Township Government Update
On Jan. 16, the board of trustees held a special meeting. The primary purpose of the meeting was to review the preliminary…
The Chester Township Board of Trustees held a special meeting on Jan. 16.
The primary purpose of the meeting was to review the preliminary budget prepared for the police department by Chief Mark Purchase. Other business included motions for pay increases for each department head, the township administrative assistant, the fiscal officer’s assistant and the zoning inspector. The last pay increases for these individuals was in early 2012.
Trustees also unanimously passed a motion requiring all township employees who may be applying for grants to first provide the purpose, justification and obtain the approval from the board of trustees prior to making application for a grant.
Police Department Update
The Chester Police Department 2013 expenditures were approximately $1.623 million. The 2014 draft budget as presented is tentatively $1.729 million.
Payroll, at approximately $1.0 million, is a significant cost for the department. Historically, the department’s actual expenditures have been about 92 percent of appropriations. Trustees discussed how to better plan more accurate annual appropriations based on year over year actual data and trends. It will result in a more accurate five-year forecast, which is a necessary part of a levy analysis.
Injuries in the police department created a yearlong patrol officer shortage in 2013, which was filled in part by the township detective, Chief Purchase, and most significantly, by other patrol officers, which resulted in approximately $63,000 in overtime pay. Because a number of officers worked significant amounts of overtime, vacation payouts, as a contract obligation, were also higher than normal. Potential operational changes to limit the financial impact in these areas are a focus for 2014.
Presently, there is a significant carryover in the police department revenue, about 80 percent of 2013 expenses. However, reductions in local government funding received from the state and reductions in other tax resources along with projected operational cost increases indicate the carryover may be depleted in 2018.
A more detailed analysis and update of the numbers is necessary to improve the accuracy of this projection. Discussion ensued on what can be done to limit the rate of cost increases and where savings can be recognized. Potential cost-savings, as they are identified and implemented, will help to extend resources.
It is the board’s intent that once the budget is near final, the budget will be published and an evening public meeting will be held at a regularly scheduled trustees meeting at which time, with Chief Purchase participating, the changes made to the draft budget will be identified and questions and comments from the public will be addressed before finalization of a budget that will be voted on as part of Chester Township’s 2014 permanent appropriations.
The meeting also included a discussion regarding Chester Township’s membership in the Valley Enforcement Group (VEG) and the Valley Enforcement Group’s Regional Council of Governments (VERCOG), comprised of elected representatives from participating municipalities and townships.
VEG was originally established as a group to deal with bombs and explosives, and Chester Township became a member around 1996. Since that time, the scope of services has expanded to include SWAT, hostage negotiations and serious accident investigation. The recent annual membership fee in VEG has been $7,000.
In a previous trustees meeting, the question was asked whether the Geauga County Sheriff provides similar services. Trustee Petruziello indicated that similar services are provided by the Geauga County Sheriff in cooperation with the Lake County Sheriff, and the State Highway Patrol can conduct accident investigations.
Concern was expressed over response times. Trustee Petruziello said his conversation with Sheriff McClelland said the planning is for on-scene response time in 35 to 45 minutes. VEG has an on-scene response commitment of within 60 minutes.
Trustee Kinney asked that the board evaluate the services not only from a cost standpoint, but also from a risk management and from insurance policy perspective. Certain equipment, training and resources would no longer be available if the township withdraws.
The board asked for more information, including recent financial audits of VEG, services rendered to Chester Township from VEG and the frequency and cost of responses provided by Chester to other municipalities. The board will ask Sheriff McClelland and a representative from VEG to speak to the trustees and the public at a trustees meeting in the near future before a membership decision is made.
Discussions began regarding Chester Township’s membership in the Chagrin River Watershed Partners (CRWP). Trustee Radtke commented that there is an overlap of some services, primarily residential site visits. Several questions were raised and it was decided to ask the CRWP and the Geauga County Soil and Water Conservation District if a representative from each organization could attend a meeting and explain the services each organization offers. Annual membership in the CRWP is about $4,000.
Also discussed was the appointment of two trustees to Chester Townships Volunteer Fire Fighters Dependent’s Fund Board, which is a requirement of the Ohio Revised code for communities with volunteer fire fighters. A motion will be made on the next agenda to elect two trustees to this board.
Trustees then entered into executive session to discuss the compensation of other township personnel.
The next meeting for the Chester Township Board of Trustees is a special meeting at 2 p.m. on Jan. 29, where the primary focus will be the 2014 Road Department Budget.
A special meeting notice will be sent to the media and those citizens who have requested to be notified via email.
Contact trustees at 440-729-7058 with any questions, comments or suggestions.
- Submitted by Chester Twp. Trustees
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