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Washington Township OKs budget, locks up on 16th officer

December 18, 2007|By ASHLEY HARTMAN

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The Washington Township Supervisors approved their 2008 budget Monday night, but were unable to decide whether a 16th police officer should be a part of that budget.

The $14.03 million budget was passed with no tax increases for township residents, according to Township Manager Mike Christopher.

Christopher said the current tax rate is 4.4 mills. A mill represents $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

The general fund included $4.8 million in expenditures, a 9 percent increase over the 2007 budget, Christopher said. The top three expenditures are expected to be for police, insurance and benefits and highways, according to the budget documents.

To make up for this increase in expenditures, the township is expecting revenues from property taxes and the Act 511 taxes to increase from $1.97 million in 2007 to $2.1 million in 2008. The refuse station/recycling revenues were expected to increase from $749,750 in 2007 to $837,500 in 2008.

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But when it was time for the supervisors to vote on adding another police officer to the department, Supervisor John Gorman and Christopher Firme voted against adding a 16th officer and Carroll Sturm and Paul Benchoff voted to add the officer. Steward McCleaf was not present at the meeting, so the board decided to schedule a meeting for Thursday at 7 p.m.

"I'm a fiscal conservative," Gorman said. "I just don't feel comfortable with the financial situation."

Firme echoed Gorman's statements, which referred to the slowed housing market.

"With everything that you're hearing about what's happening down there, in Maryland, it's a trickle-down effect and it eventually hits down here," Firme said.

"I don't want to budget and not have the money come in," Firme said.

Sturm and Benchoff both agreed the 16th officer should be in the budget and should be hired.

"If we don't fulfill what's in the budget, we lack confidence in the budget," Benchoff said, adding that the window of opportunity for hiring a 16th officer was closing because the police academy begins Jan. 15 and an officer needs two weeks to complete paperwork.

"The police department has historically ... been losing on average of one officer per year," Sturm said. "The hiring of the 16th officer is a hedge in keeping all work done and keeping someone from leaving."

McCleaf previously said he wanted to include the 16th officer in the budget.

Police Chief Barry Keller said if the board decides Thursday that a 16th officer can be put in the budget, that officer will have sufficient time to give notice to his current employer and start at the police academy on Jan. 15. That officer could then be out in the field alone by the end of August, Keller said.

Bryan Chappell Jr. started work Monday as the 15th police officer on Washington Township's force, Keller said.

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