In February, the West York Borough Council voted to send letters to five neighboring police departments to see if there is an interest in providing police services to the borough. This decision has caused several residents to question why, as well as fanned speculation among several of the council's detractors.
As elected representatives of the borough, the council's job is to represent all of the residents of the borough and make decisions to benefit the residents as a whole, not to make decisions based upon agenda, party lines or personal vendettas.
In the case of the police department, the detractors would have you believe that this is a personal quest of the mayor or the Republican majority.
That is simply not true.
In this case, it is one of what is best for West York, not only this year, but for years to come and beyond. Our current situation is not dire, we are not insolvent as many municipalities have become. We would like to avoid that scenario and retain our independent status as long as possible. There are two main factors that control this. One is money, the other is flexibility. With our current situation both are in question.
Five years ago, the sitting council signed into an agreement with the Teamsters Union to provide police service for a five-year period to West York. This contract essentially tied the hands of the council from being able to navigate its own police force. It dictated how many officers would be staffed, how many hours shifts would be, how overtime is calculated.
The contract strong arms the borough into compliance with annual raises and dictated salaries. It makes it nearly impossible to reprimand an officer, or cut back on overtime. Nor does this allow the manager to leave the bargaining unit making it difficult if not impossible for them to manage his force. The contract makes things better for the union, not the borough it serves. The union calculates its dues by the amount of money the officers make, regular and overtime combined. The more the officers make, the more the union makes.
This contract is up at the end of this year, and the council is entering into negotiations with this same bargaining unit. If the council did not obtain as much information prior to these negotiations, they would be remiss in their charter.
In 2008, our police force was budgeted at $897,890. In 2013, the budget has grown to $1,481,386. If this trend was to continue in 2018 the cost would be $2,061,776, 40 percent higher in 10 years. Just for comparison, the average rate of inflation from 2008 to 2013 was 2 percent.
West York residents paid over $700,890 in regular time and over $177,000 in overtime for police salaries in 2012. In 2012, police salaries ranged from $110,303 on the high end to $33,613 on the lower spectrum. That equates to almost 24,000 hours regular time and 4,090 hours of overtime in fiscal year 2012. And the ironclad contract does not allow the council to make any changes, leaving the residents of West York with the bill and no recourse.
York Counts came out with a study last year looking at regionalization of police services in York County. While the council doesn't agree with all the data or the findings of the study, some interesting information came out in that study. For instance; West York paid $261 per citizen for police in 2010. That is 62 percent higher than Dover Township, which has four times as many people and is 42-square miles compared to our half square mile.
Using the budgeted number for 2013, and the 2011 census, equating to 4,636 residents, comes out to $320 per resident for police for 2013, an 18 percent increase.
So, as you can see, going into a negotiation scenario without all the information would not only be foolhardy, but dangerous. That is why the West York Borough Council is exploring all options.
-- Shane M. Louthian is vice president of the West York Borough Council.