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City officials say personnel additions may not require tax hike

May 06, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Hagerstown could get six more police officers, a dispatcher and two firefighters in the upcoming fiscal year without a property tax increase being necessary, city officials said Tuesday.

After more than an hour-long discussion concerning personnel requests from the police and fire chiefs, four City Council members said they would support funding of nine more public safety positions.

Council members Lewis Metzner, Fred Kramer, William Breichner and Susan Saum-Wicklein said they would support the additional personnel.

Councilman Mark Jameson said he would vote against the staffing requests at next Tuesday's 7 p.m. regular meeting of the mayor and City Council.

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Jameson said the council to be elected in the May 20 general election should vote on the staffing request because of the significant financial costs. He said he would have supported four more police officers.

"I'm very pleased," said Police Chief Dale Jones, after his third and final pitch to the council for seven more officers to form a crime impact team. The team's duties would include reducing the city's growing problem with drugs and related violence.

Once that crime problem has been eradicated or moved out of the city, future police vacancies would be reviewed by council members to see if the police force could be cut back to 93 officers. With the six additional police officers, the city will have 99 officers.

Jones had requested funding for six more police officers and a sergeant. It appears he will get five officers and a sergeant who will be out on the streets with the team, he said.

The crime impact team could be ready in a year, Jones said. The dispatcher should start July 1, and the police officers in October. Depending on how much training the officers need, team members could be on the streets in late fall, he said.

The additional fire and police personnel will cost $120,468 in the fiscal year starting July 1, said City Finance Director Al Martin.

The expected cost of the additional nine personnel in fiscal year 1999 is $181,270, including overtime, Martin said. The next council will decide whether a property tax rate increase will be needed to continue funding the additional personnel.

Breichner identified $122,000 worth of budget cuts to help fund the personnel costs in the upcoming fiscal year, including not hiring a computer network administrator and delaying making a part-time planning job full time until Jan. 1.

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