Southwestern Regional Police Board reveals cost-cutting plan to salvage department

Southwestern Regional Police Department in Heidelberg Township, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The Southwestern Regional Police Board has revealed some of the cost-cutting ideas intended to keep the department together.

During the board's meeting Wednesday, Jan. 9, Chairman Matt Bollinger said that two ideas could cut up to 20 percent of the department's budget.

This comes months after North Codorus Township officials unanimously voted to leave the department by the end of the year. Township officials cited rising costs as the reason for the departure.

The department also serves Heidelberg Township, Manheim Township and Spring Grove.

On Wednesday, Bollinger mentioned "staffing changes," as well as a possible change in insurance for the officers that could cut costs for the department.

A personnel committee consisting of two board members — Spring Grove Mayor Beverly Hilt and Robert Whyland, a representative from Spring Grove — was tasked with exploring the options.

“They’re going to start putting ... a timeline together, from here on out to achieve the plan,” Bollinger said.

Chief Greg Bean had  presented suggestions for cost-saving measures during a nonpublic executive session at the board's Dec. 12 meeting.

Ideas: Information provided by Bean at the most recent meeting states that staffing change proposals would mean 12 officers instead of 14.

“Of course we can’t really enumerate to what exactly those staffing changes mean," Bollinger said at the meeting.

During the November police board meeting, Bean told members the best course of action was to eliminate two positions by attrition.  

Bollinger also said the current health insurance plan for police officers has been "substantially increased" over the years. 

He said the insurance plan returns unused funds to the department every year, which is then saved and used to cover the following year's increase in insurance costs.

The department hasn't increased the insurance cost for the municipalities since 2015, Bolligner said.

"it doesn't look good," he said about how long the board could keep using the leftover money to cover the rising costs.

One of the quotes from another provider showed an "immediate $180,000 savings," according to Bollinger.

Bean's notes state that the health insurance costs for the officers would rise slightly, and such a change would have to be negotiated. 

As it stands, the potential for cost savings appear to be about 28 percent, Bollinger said. He added that another municipality has expressed interest in joining the department. If that were the case, the savings could likely be more than 30 percent, he said.

Southwestern Regional Police Chief Greg Bean holds a press conference on the murder of Samantha Stein, Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

With these ideas comes a decrease in police service hours, Bean noted. That would vary on input from the municipalities, according to the chief.

Bollinger, a representative from Heidelberg Township, noted that Spring Grove and Heidelberg Township officials unanimously voted to forfeit any cost savings from the ideas and instead share them with Manheim Township and North Codorus Township.

“If this plan goes into place ... those monies that we would have saved will go to trying to salvage the department with the other two municipalities, if that’s the number they need,” he said.

Bean said after the meeting that Manheim Township officials have expressed interest in lowering their costs. He said the township has not submitted anything on paper, as North Codorus Township had.

The chief declined to say which municipality Bollinger mentioned was interested in joining, saying that it was premature to do so.

Bean said after the meeting that it was a positive experience.

"It was positive in that this is a sign to the public, in a public setting, that (the board) is working together," he said.

More:Southwestern Regional Police Board quiet on chief's cost-cutting ideas

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More:North Codorus Twp. unanimously votes to leave Southwestern Regional Police

Previously undisclosed: Last month members of the board, its solicitor and the chief were quiet on Bean's cost-cutting ideas.

Walter Tilley, the board's solicitor, said at the time that because one or more of the ideas dealt with personnel issues, the ideas had to be discussed in executive session.

On Wednesday, Tilley told the board they could waive confidentiality rights and discuss the ideas openly.

“This is an opportunity, so you’re not hamstrung if you do actually want to talk about these things in public," he said.

Tilley had been instructed by Bean to look into publicly disclosing some of the ideas.

“From what I've heard in our meetings, people just want to know what’s happening," Bean said.

North Codorus Township Supervisor Rodney Shearer, a member of the board, said during the township's December meeting that he would like to talk about the ideas, but he was told not to by Tilley.

Background: In October, the North Codorus Township supervisors unanimously voted to leave the department in 2020. All of the supervisors said the decision was because of  department costs.

North Codorus Township has the largest population of the department's four municipalities, and it contributes 48 percent of the department's budget for an equal percentage of police service, officials have said. 

Shearer told The York Dispatch in October that the township paid $992,000 in 2018 for police service.

He said the township only needs about 160 hours of the 253 weekly hours of service it purchases.

The police board meets again at 7 p.m. Feb. 13 at the police department building,  6115 Thoman Drive in Heidelberg Township.

North Codorus Township's board of supervisors meets again at 7 p.m. Feb. 19 at the township's municipal building.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser