Answer to Question #3
What does the department do with its current annual operating budget? The answer to this question is the budget basically consists of salaries and equipment and then splinters off into sub sections, but I think you need a little back history to help answer the question.
After being appointed Police Chief in October 2016, I quickly discovered that the Police Department was not in compliance with the State or Federal Agencies. We needed to recruit some new and well trained officers, needed to rebuild our community relationships, and were in desperate need of some equipment updates. I worked with our elected officials to create a several year strategic plan to recruit and retain qualified officers, update the departments aging equipment, bring the department back into compliance with all state and federal requirements, and rebuild the relationship between the police department and the community. I am happy to announce that we have met most of our strategic goals that we made several years ago.
This was accomplished by the city moving to an all part time police department during this time period. The move to a part time policing model saved the tax payers money by not having to pay for insurance or pension for members of the police department. This allowed the city to raise the officers’ salaries, which helped attract and keep well qualified part time officers. This also helped the department purchase and update equipment that it had not been able to afford under the previous budget model.
I further stretched the budget by applying for grants, which resulted in further savings to the taxpaying citizens of Toluca. The department, under my leadership, has received used computers and furniture from State Farm for the police department office, received over $10,000.00 from the State of Illinois to purchase in car camera systems for both of our police vehicles to help with cases and keep our actions accountable to the public, and received $3,000.00 from BNSF Foundation to purchase updated portable police radios and to build a community training room in city hall. The department also received 50% matching funds from the Department of Justice to purchase new bullet proof vests for our officers.
I am continuing to seek grants to help purchase equipment to stretch the budget and save money as we still are in need of several more equipment updates. One squad car has over 100,000 miles and will soon need to be replaced and the garage where the cars are being stored only has about a five year life expectancy left on it.
I am not good at bragging and that is certainly why this may be the first time you have heard any of these facts. The Toluca Police Department is probably in the best shape it has ever been in decades. We have professionally trained officers, updated equipment, engaged in community involvement, are currently in compliance with state and federal requirements, and have established a case management system which has improved case dispositions.
The Toluca Police Protection Increase is a long term strategy to continue to improve the quality of services that the police department provides to the community. The long term goals are to keep a well qualified and professional police force while increasing hours of coverage. While part time policing is working for now it makes it very difficult to follow up on cases, address traffic complaint issues, animal complaints, and effectively police the community. Currently the department budget allows for 8 hours a day for patrol coverage,15 hours a week for me to complete administrative tasks, patrol, investigate and follow up cases, and other duties. We have an additional 40 hours a month set aside for extra patrol hours, officers to attend training, train new officers, and attend court time. Essentially we’re cramming 24 hours of policing into 8 hours of coverage a day.
With the current social unrest in the country, the state of Illinois continuing to add mandatory unfunded training, among many other issues, its becoming difficult to recruit and retain qualified and professional officers under this part time model. In order to return to full time status we are going to have to be competitive with our wages and benefits and need this tax increase to help close that gap.
I know that asking for a tax increase is difficult but let’s be honest, there is no good time to ask for one. However, as far as tax increases go, the small tax increase of approximately $8.00 a month based on a fair house value of $100,000.00 will go a long way to greatly improve the public safety of Toluca and help the City’s long term goal of moving back to a full time police force.
I hope that this post helped you to understand that the city is not just arbitrarily asking for your hard earned money without having a plan in place and that we are trying to stretch every dollar we’re given.
Thanks for the questions, comments, and phone calls. Please keep them coming!!!
I will post some department numbers for the last 2 years tomorrow to help you, the tax payer, understand what kind of calls the department handles, what we do for the community, and how major cases can burn up my administrative and the patrol officers’ hours fast.