Bartonville Town Council voted 3-2 to include a police chief and three fulltime police officers in the 2014-2015 budget and to give all of the town’s staff a 3 percent cost of living increase.
The motion by Jim Langford, mayor pro tem, was made after council members continued to be evenly split on keeping four fulltime police officers and police chief as proposed in the 2014-2015 fiscal budget. Langford said he made the motion “in the interest of moving on and trying to pull the community back together.”
Langford and Betty Medlock, Place 4 council member, both wanted to keep the proposed four fulltime officers.
“We are now down below where we were,” Langford said, adding the current 2013-2014 budget has 4.8 officers budgeted in addition to the chief’s position. “I think we owe it to our town, our citizens, our taxpayers to provide them with adequate police service.”
Medlock said she was struck by the irony of proposing cuts in the police force at a time when a new shopping center was underway.
“We started the police force anticipating growth,” she said. “Here we are on the cusp that we started the whole thing for and we’re stepping back. That seems foolish to me.”
She referenced recommendations in a study sought and paid for by the council. The Texas Police Chiefs Association suggested staffing the department with a police chief and four full-time officers and not using part-time officers unless absolutely necessary.
“I abhor the idea of having a part-time officer,” Medlock said.
Jeff Traylor, Place 1 council member, disagreed with the proposed four fulltime officers. “To build a police force on the idea that crime will be here is like putting the cart before the horse,” he said. “If crime increases then, by golly, I’m all for it.”
Traylor said he favored an alternative option calling for one fulltime officer and two part-time officers, indicating the city’s lack of crime did not necessitate a larger department.
Place 2 council member Jaclyn Carrington said she favored two fulltime officers and two part-time officers, which would save the town 16 hours per week or an estimated $37,700 in salaries.
The deciding vote, however, showed Traylor and Langford opting for a consensus of three fulltime officers and a chief with Mayor Bill Scherer breaking the tie. Medlock and Carrington voted against the motion.
Scherer told council members he wanted a consensus on Tuesday night and suggested the hiring of additional officers should wait until a decision is made on a permanent police chief out of respect to allow him or her the opportunity to select the officers.
In public comments prior to the public hearings on the proposed budget and tax rate, four residents spoke in favor of keeping the police department at the level proposed in the budget.
“I think I represent a goodly amount of people in that we want a fulltime police department,” said Nona Dawson. “If it takes raising my taxes, I’ll stand at the front of the line.”
Kim Thomas, who recently moved to Bartonville from Castle Hills near Lewisville, also spoke in favor of keeping the police department staffing as proposed in the budget. “When we moved here, I just felt really safe,” Thomas said, adding she noted visible police presence in the town with officers patrolling the neighborhoods. “If we can afford it and we have the money, why wouldn’t we spend the money to have a safe community?”
The staffing size of the police department has been a contentious issue on the council in recent months. Former Police Chief Dave Howell tendered his resignation in June, retiring effective July 1 amid discussions among town council members over disbanding the police department and contracting with neighboring law enforcement entities.
With Howell’s resignation and the resignation of a sergeant, the Bartonville Police Department is currently operating with an interim police chief, Bobby Dowell, one full-time officer and a part-time officer working 32 hours a week.
In the proposed budget, all staff except for the town administrator was to receive a 3 percent cost of living salary increase. Scherer told the council that he had suggested the town administrator not be included in the budget since a renegotiation of her contract had been recently completed. When the town administrator was promoted last year, she received a 10 percent pay increase and was placed under contract. As the only employee under contract, Scherer said the evaluation is on a different timeline than other staff. Langford argued that all town staff should be included regardless of contractual renegotiations. The budget proposes a salary of $70,600 for the town administrator.
The town’s revenues are expected to increase with property taxes generating an additional $31,662 or 6.7 percent more than the current budget. Estimated revenues for the 2014-2015 fiscal budget total $990,705. Expenditures were estimated at $914,282 with reserves of $76,423. That estimate does not include the 3 percent cost of living increase for the town administrator’s position or the reduction of one fulltime police officer’s salary.
The town will vote on the proposed budget with recommended changes and a proposed tax rate of $0.19240 per $100 in property valuation at the next meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. on Sept. 16.