North Codorus rejects Southwestern police budget, faces $1M penalty for leaving department
North Codorus Township could be on the hook for a nearly $1 million penalty if it follows through on its plan to leave the Southwestern Regional Police Department.
That's according to the department's board, which issued a news release Thursday, March 14, noting the township had rejected a slimmed-down budget designed to assuage concerns about the cost of coverage.
That plan called for three fewer officers and a 25 percent cost reduction for the four member municipalities, the board stated.
Township officials have cited rising costs as the reason behind their intent to depart from the regional police force by the end of the year. They sent their letter of intent to withdraw in October.
Should the township stick to that plan, it would leave the department with Manheim Township, Heidelberg Township and Spring Grove as member municipalities.
Rejected: In a letter provided to the police board at its Wednesday, March 13, meeting, North Codorus Township Manager Sharon Kerchner wrote the township believes it can provide better police service at a cheaper price.
There continue to be problems with the department, she wrote, adding that Chief Greg Bean did not recommend the personnel changes.
"Therefore, if the Chief doesn't support these changes, the SWRP Board has to have questions whether or not this will work," Kerchner wrote.
However, department officials contend Bean did recommend the changes, though he noted they were not ideal.
According to the department, the proposed plan would cut the number of officers from 14 to 11.
Township Supervisor Rodney Shearer, who is a member of the police board, said the morning of Friday, March 15, that there were some issues North Codorus had with the proposed budget.
In addition to reiterating what Kerchner wrote in the letter, Shearer said the proposed budget would have given North Codorus Township 190 hours of service per week when it only needs about 160 to 170 hours.
He also said it would have cut the township's annual costs to $866,000 when local officials were aiming for between $700,000 and $750,000.
Shearer also mentioned that as part of the proposed budget, Bean would fill in for some officers on a scheduled basis.
"I don't think it's going to be allowed," he said, adding that it would be taking time from a union employee.
Penalty: The board is now going to review the penalty for North Codorus Township's departure, which could be as much as one year's payment of $992,000, according to the release.
Shearer said the township's attorneys don't expect the municipality to owe that much in the end. The exact number, he said, will likely not be known until the end of the year.
Walter Tilley, the police board's solicitor, said that articles of agreement with the department make it so a departing municipality has to pay an identifiable cost so the force does not suffer financial loss and the municipalities do not lose the quality of service.
Shearer said the building agreement meant that North Codorus Township would get back an appraised value of what the township put into the police station, which would affect the penalty price.
Tilley said that was about 48 percent, and that would be given back to the township over a period of ten years. He also said that the township will get its capital investment in the department back, but all of that investment, about $125,000, has been depreciated.
"Over the next 16 years, whatever they bought with that ... have all been replaced or depreciated out," Tilley said.
The solicitor said he is hoping to have an agreement on what North Codorus Township will pay quarterly for next year so they can get an idea of what the entire penalty fee would be in 2020.
“The goal is to try to make this as noncontentious as possible,” Tilley said.
There would also be legal fees and appraisal fees, but that likely won't be assessed until the end of the year, according to Tilley.
Shearer said the supervisors knew there would be fees.
“We did our homework on it," he said.
Shearer said there are some ideas as to what the fee might be, but he was not ready to release that information yet.
Tilley said the idea of taking the township to court, should a dispute over the penalty arise, has not been discussed by the police board.
Future: The township has received "ballpark" ideas for service from Northern York County Regional Police and West Manchester Township Police, and those fit in with what supervisors want, according to Shearer.
He said he doesn't expect to get official proposals from the agencies until late April or early May. The departments, he said, want to know if they should plan to provide service in 2020 by June.
Shearer said the township might use state police coverage, but only to provide service between Southwestern and whatever local police coverage they get next.
The department will have to determine the cost of police service for the remaining municipalities. There is no timeline yet for when these numbers will be known.
North Codorus Township can reverse the decision by the end of the year; however, Shearer doesn't think it will happen.
"We don't have time to work this out anymore," he said.
Messages left for township supervisors Chairman Nelson Brenneman and Vice-chair Dennis Luckenbaugh were not returned Friday. Kerchner, the township manager, was in meetings Friday and did not return a message seeking comment.
North Codorus Township supervisors meet again 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, at the township building at 1986 Stoverstown Road.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story had Rodney Shearer's first name listed incorrectly. This story has been updated.