SUNBURY— Sunbury Mayor Kurt Karlovich is clearing the air about the city’s financial situation and the status of the police department.
In a statement provided to WKOK, Mayor Karlovich says city council has made changes to the budget and the city’s legal expenses have stabilized. He says the city was burdened in the beginning of the year with many unforeseen legal expenses and the mayor said it is very expensive to lose an officer from the police department. Karlovich says the amount tends to be anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 per officer.
This year the city had one officer resign, two officers retire, and the chief leave due to a mutual separation agreement stemming from an undisclosed medical issue. He says one new police officer will cost the city about $77,000 annually for salary and benefits. Chief Tim Miller’s salary and benefits will remain being paid until April 30, 2019.
The mayor says the city conducted a civil service test in June and one applicant who passed is available for hire in September.
The police department began the year with one chief, nine full-time officers, and three part-time officers. Now there are at six full-time officers and two part-time officers.
There tends to be an ever seemingly grey cloud of negativity that constantly surrounds the Sunbury Police and we are trying to correct that.
I am still an avid supporter of additional officers, transparency and bringing change to our city.
We began 2018 with one chief, nine full-time officers, and three part-time officers. We now are at six full-time officers and two part-time officers.
There are extremely important details that need to be looked into before we can begin implementing changes, hiring additional police officers or giving statements in order to make sure the information is correct and that nothing will place the city in jeopardy or cause liability concerns with certain information that may be prohibited by law from even releasing.
Our current budget situation for 2018 has been rough for several reasons. We began this year with strangling legal expenses from the previous year. Due to paying an enormous amount of unforeseen legal expenses this year it has put a drastic strain and placed us over our budget for that line item. We have looked into that situation and have made changes and it has finally stabilized.
There was no foresight to realize that the city has officers that were on the verge of retirement and could leave whenever they wanted to and begin budgeting for such. When an officer leaves the force, whether for retirement or resignation, the city must pay them a lump some of their remaining benefits. Those benefits include, any unused vacation time, unused comp time, unused sick time, and unused holiday time. That amount tends to be anywhere from $15 thousand to $30 thousand dollars per officer, depending on their remaining benefits and time with the department.
This year we have had one officer resign due to moving out of state, two officers due to retirement, and the chief due to a mutual separation agreement. Once all their benefits are paid that leaves us with approximately $33,000 remaining from their combined 2018 budgeted employment with us.
In order to hire a new police officer for the remainder of 2018, it will cost the city approximately $26,000 for salary and benefits for four months. We have a lot that we must look into. The city budgeted approximately $293,000 thousand dollars for the combined salary and benefits of the three officers that left the department this year. In order to replace those three officers, the city would need to budget approximately $231,000 thousand dollars to replace them with three new hires for next year. One new police officer will cost the city annually with salary and benefits of approximately $77,000.
Tim Miller is under a signed contract with the salary and benefits that Mayor Dave Persing, Ric Reichner, Beth Kremer, Jim Eister and Dale Henry all voted 5-0 and approved at a council meeting in 2016. Tim Miller will remain on the city’s current budget for the remainder of the year and we must budget accordingly for 2019 until April 30. In January of this year we renewed Tim Millers contract as a sign of good faith and his salary was not affected.
Around our state and country there are a lack of applications to be a police officer that is noticed here in our own city. We advertised for our civil service testing in May and conducted the testing in June. We received only two applicants to test during that time. One applicant who passed the standards is still currently enrolled in Act 120 School and isn’t available for hiring until September.
We are working diligently to resolve this issue for our officers, residents and visitors of Sunbury. Remember, Sunbury is run by one mayor and four council members who all have an equal vote when it comes to changes.
To clarify some confusion regarding the future Sunbury Wetland Community Nature Park project and our current police department situation. No City money is going into this project and I am working on it during my free time. So far I have contacted the Army Corps of Engineers for a Jurisdictional Determination letter regarding the “wetland” delineation at NO COST. I have contacted PADEP regarding what permits if any would need to be applied for in the future at NO COST. We have applied for grants to help pay for this project at NO COST. The grants that we have applied for cannot be used toward our police department in anyway and are only available for certain categories, which this park falls under and the police department does not. With the completion of this project in the coming years will help us fight our ever growing blight problem, help deter crime and nuisance in that area, raise property values, and will provide a safe place for the public to use while protecting the property.
It was my decision of placing CPL Brad Hare as Officer-In-Charge of the Sunbury Police Department. I had three supervisors from within the department that I had to decide from. I spoke with the candidates and at this time I feel that CPL Brad Hare is the most experienced to be the officer-in-charge on a temporary basis which will be reevaluated at a later date. During the 2015 police department controversy Brad Hare had asked to be placed back to the rank as CPL when he was the chief, he was not demoted or disciplined by Mayor Dave Persing. I have full faith in our City and our Sunbury Police Department and we will adapt and move forward, like anything, it will take time and patience.
Kurt Karlovich, Mayor.