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St. Mary Police Department Likely To Be Cut When Budget Is Approved October 10

The St. Mary Board of Aldermen last week during a work session directed city manager David Woods to amend the city’s 2020 budget and draft a related resolution disbanding the city’s one-man police department.

The board is expected to vote on the budget at its next regular meeting on Thursday, October 10.

A special meeting on September 24 included a work session devoted to the proposed budget, which also was on the agenda but was not voted on.

The board in August was presented a budget by Woods that included expenses of $164,283 from the general fund against anticipated revenue of $102,710 for a shortfall of $61,573.

The city earlier this year liquidated certificates of deposit (CDs) on two occasions — totalling $23,282 — in order to pay its bills. But the board also approved increases of 20 percent to the water and sewer rates in order to keep those departments from having shortfalls.

Woods presented data to the board last week showing police department expenses — car allowance and maintenance, police radio and other equipment, various insurance coverages — of $44,131 for a 12-month period ending September 24, while the revenue from court fines was $9,816, for a difference of $34,315.

In addition, by eliminating the police department, the board also can eliminate a budget line of $6.000 for legal fees related to a prosecuting attorney to handle the cases brought by law enforcement.

Alderman Brian Helms, who did much of the speaking during the meeting, also asked Woods to eliminate the $2,700 spent annually for a treasurer if Woods could handle those duties as well.

Helms also inquired about reducing the hours for the elected city collector position, but Woods and Mayor Gloria Bader said such a change could only happen by election, which Woods said could come no earlier than April of 2021, when the current term would end.

The board in August of 2018 — which has had 50 percent turnover since — adopted a 2019 budget with a $52,000 shortfall, but did not begin addressing the issue until months into the fiscal year with meetings that led to the water and sewer rate increases and the cashing in of CDs.

Woods said the proposed budget would force the city to look at cashing in more CDs.

“If we cash out all the CDs,” he told the board, “we should be able to make it through until next year.”

The city has seven certificates of deposit. While one related to the sewer system, with a balance of $106,690, could not be touched, the others could. The total balance of those is estimated at $64,570.

See complete story in the October 2 edition of the Herald.

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