Shrewsbury council votes to change Southern Regional funding formula
- The Shrewsbury Borough Council voted in favor of supporting a new formula for police funding.
- Chief James Boddington said it was a good step and showed willingness to compromise.
The Shrewsbury Borough Council voted Wednesday night in favor of altering the formula by which the Southern Regional Police Department is funded.
The funding formula factors in municipalities' populations, the amount of time police have to spend there and how many miles of road each municipality has. The department covers New Freedom, Shrewsbury, Glen Rock and Stewartstown.
The Shrewsbury council unanimously agreed to support a formula balance of 60 percent service hours, 20 percent population and 20 percent roads, while other municipalities are pushing for their funding to be based solely on service hours.
Budgeting: New Freedom's borough council has expressed interest in changing its funding to 100 percent service hours, meaning the borough would pay based on the amount of time officers are in its area.
Because of an impasse over how the department is funded, New Freedom has considered leaving Southern Regional altogether. Last Monday, New Freedom's council held a public comment session, which is required as part of the process of leaving the department, and during its next meeting the members will vote on sending a letter of intent to leave the department by January 2018.
New Freedom, which has a population of about 4,400, paid the department about $487,000 this year for about 3,900 hours of service, while Shrewsbury, which has about 3,800 residents, paid about $465,000 for 4,300 hours of service, according to Southern Regional Police Chief James Boddington.
Shrewsbury's council on Wednesday said the current formula should be changed — but not to the extent that New Freedom wants it to be changed. The council members' argument is that the balance adjusts for the differences in the population, accounting for the potential need for police services.
The council sent out a mailer to residents last week, detailing its proposed plan, saying that having funding decided solely on service hours is difficult because of the fluctuating nature of the police work. Council President Buck Buchanon referenced a cop-dragging incident in Glen Rock last year as an instance in which service hours fluctuated.
Additionally, he said service hours could cause an issue, because when municipal leaders work up a budget for the department, there could be a debate over how many hours they wish to purchase from the department.
Buchanon said at the Shrewsbury meeting that he will meet with the council presidents of the other boroughs and will bring the idea up to them, because they are tasked with figuring out a budget.
Some residents at the meeting expressed displeasure with the idea of changing the formula, claiming it's just a cost-saving measure. But Buchanon said that was not the case.
According to the mailer sent to Shrewsbury residents, under the new proposed formula, Shrewsbury borough residents would actually end up paying more, increasing from $131.09 per capita to $133.59 per capita. Under the 100 percent service hours proposition, residents would pay $131.31.
Police: After the decision was made to propose a change in the formula, Boddington said he was happy with the decision, adding it showed Shrewsbury's willingness to compromise with the other boroughs.
"Police work should be viewed as a utility, not as a business," he said.
He said because of the nature of police work, it's hard to schedule hours in certain municipalities. He added that even the presence of a random patrol in a municipality could help, such as causing drivers to slow down. He said during the meeting that many of the department's calls in the municipalities are self-generated because of random patrols.
The Southern Regional Police Department also contracts part-time services to Winterstown and Railroad. Thirteen full-time officers, one part-time officer and Boddington make up the department, which also provides services to Southern York County School District and has a budget of close to $2 million.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.