Township board approves additional police overtime funds

FLINT TWP. — Flint Township Police Chief Kevin Salter got a belated Christmas gift in the form of command personnel and additional overtime funds for the 2020 Flint Township budget.

The Flint Township Board of Trustees held a special meeting the day after the holiday to approve the 2020 appropriations resolution, but Trustee Tom Klee brought up concerns about cuts to the public safety budget. The 2020 budget showed one less command position, a decrease caused by the upcoming retirement of a sergeant. The budget also cut the number of overtime hours allowed to 373,000.

Salter pointed out that replacing the sergeant position was not in the 2020 budget.

“If you ask any police chief, the sergeant is the most important position in the department,” Salter said. “We have one sergeant retiring. I would like to replace him, but it’s not in this budget. The sergeant supervises 80 percent of the officers.”

Salter added that 55 percent of the department’s patrol officers have less than five years’ experience, and the sergeant position provides needed supervision for young officers.

“If you’re prioritizing everything, hire your sergeant and not fill one of the others if that’s the most important,” said Treasurer Lisa Anderson. “The most critical position should be filled.”

Salter also noted the 2020 budget would cut the department’s overtime by 25 percent and that its three-year average was 404,000 hours. He said overtime needed by the department hadn’t been lower than the 373,000 hours budgeted since 2013 when the department used 338,000 hours. He said the department used 399,000 hours of overtime in 2018; 388,000 in 2017; 423,000 in 2016; 379,000 in 2015; and 382,000 in 2014.

The department hired 10 new officers in 2019, and an additional nine officers are budgeted for 2020. Klee asked what it would cost to use one of those positions to promote a sergeant. Salter said the salary difference is about $10,000, but Controller Beth Takacs pointed out that salary would not be the only expense, and benefits and retirement also would have to be considered.

Supervisor Karyn Miller reminded the trustees that if an officer were promoted to sergeant, that would be a permanent change to salary, benefits and retirement that would have to be paid every year. She added that the sergeant salary and half the overtime increase would have to be paid from general fund savings.

“You have your wants, and you have your revenue, and they have to balance,” Miller said.

Takacs added that the $45,000 cost to replace a sergeant would come out of the general fund, and the $40,000 added back to the overtime budget would have to be split with half paid out of the general fund and half paid out of the public safety budget.

As the discussion wore on, Takacs reminded the board that the budget had to be passed that day.

“We really need to pass the budget today,” she said. “If anyone wants to make changes, please make a motion to make that change and hopefully get the budget passed.”

A motion to pass the 2020 appropriations as presented died with trustees Barb Vert and Klee and Clerk Kathy Funk voting no, and Trustee Carol Pfaff-Dahl, Treasurer Lisa Anderson and Miller voting yes. Trustee Frank Kasle was absent.

After further discussion, the board voted to add a sergeant for a $45,000 increase in salary and benefits to be taken from the general fund and to amend the police department budget in the general fund and the public safety fund each by $20,000 to increase overtime hours for 2020. Miller and Vert voted against the increases.

The real and personal property tax rate for 2020 will be 4.6423 mills for Township operations, along with voter-approved millages of .5 mills for municipal street improvements, .25 mills for fire safety equipment and 3.85 mills for the police and fire millage.