By Amanda Ensinger
The Prairie Township trustees approved a 6 percent pay increase to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. The increase would add about $49,000 to the township’s annual cost to serve and protect the township.
This yearly agreement provides the township with two cars solely dedicated to the community. One of these cars is in the township 24 hours a day, seven days a week and the other car works in the township 16 hours a day, seven days a week.
There also are other police cars that are assigned to the area, but not dedicated by contract to the township.
However, as the price to work with the sheriff’s office continues to increase, many in the township wonder how high it will go?
In 2012, the township paid the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office $535,688 and today they pay them $853,217 a year.
“The price will continue to go up because this is the cost of operations, but obviously, we can’t afford a 6 percent pay increase every year,” said Tracy Hatmaker, township administrator. “The cost of operations is constantly going up so we can’t put a cap on how much we will spend, especially when we know how vital this service is.”
However, Hatmaker did say the township is monitoring how quickly these rates with the sheriff are going up and so far, they are reasonable and within the township’s trajectory.
“We met with the sheriff’s office a few years ago about the rate of increases that we were seeing at that time,” Hatmaker said. “Given how much police services were costing after the township’s significant increase in services in 2012, we felt the need to work with the sheriff to more closely manage the annual contract amounts in order to keep expenses from getting out of control.”
Hatmaker said the sheriff’s office agreed to adjust the service credits (given to offset for base police projection services provided county-wide) in their calculations to slow down the increases.
“This, along with favorable changes for the cost of vehicle related expenses, actually led to lower costs, followed by very low increases for a few years,” Hatmaker said. “This year, we saw a larger increase than in the past few years, which takes us just about to where we were in 2013.”
In 2013, the township’s contract increased to $854,503, but in 2014 because of negations by the township it decreased to $797,558.
Hatmaker attributes this year’s increase to personnel costs, but also because, while these and other costs increased as usual, they were not offset by a significant service credit increase in 2017.
“Most of this year’s 4 percent personnel cost increase, along with various vehicle-related increases are being passed along because of a decreased service credit offset,” Hatmaker said. “While this year stands out, we are looking at managing these costs over multiple years.”
Hatmaker said that the township also has not given up hope of bringing a substation to the township. The township previously tried to work with the sheriff’s office on this, but could not come to an agreement.
“We are very cautiously still considering this,” Hatmaker said. “Last time the terms changed last minute, which made it impossible to follow through.”
The township also plans to continue to have an open dialogue with the county sheriff about realistic budgets they can afford.
“As we meet over the course of this year and discuss costs for the coming years, we will continue to be aware of our long-term goals and budget for police protection as balanced against the sheriff’s office’s needs and expenses,” Hatmaker said. “While we understand the fact that a single year might see a 6 percent increase because of various adjustments, I can tell you that the township budget can’t sustain ongoing annual increases in this range on an annual basis.”
For more information on the police services the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office provides the township, visit www.prairietownship.org.