Sheriff Proposes to Save Clearwater $8.2-Million
By Carl Wagenfohr
CLEARWATER - It took less than one month for Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats to respond to Clearwater's verbal request for a proposal to take over law enforcement within the city. If that proposal is accepted, it could have a beneficial effect on Clearwater's budget, and property owners' tax bills, for years to come.
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office (PCSO) proposal was based on the city's projected staffing level for Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, and offers the same number of patrol officers, detectives and other enforcement personnel that the city has been planning to fund. Included in those numbers are the special policing teams the city has prided itself on: Beach Walk, Traffic, Bike, K9, Hispanic Outreach, and Community Policing among others.
"Our proposed FY11 budget to provide the city with full law enforcement services, at the same level that would be provided by the Clearwater Police Department, is $29,180,788," Coats wrote in the cover letter of his proposal. CPD's FY10 budget is $37,415,990.
"Assuming CPD's FY11 budget will be higher than its FY10 budget (due to unavoidable personnel cost increases etc.), the actual FY11 savings will be more than $8.2 million," Coats claimed.
Coats' suggested that even more cost savings were possible. "While this proposal mirrors CPD's FY11 deployment of officers and detectives, opportunities exist for savings beyond the projected minimum of $8.2 million by further analyzing current PCSO and CPD operations and maximizing cost saving opportunities. Such decisions however would be the City's alone after considering recommendations from PCSO."
In a note to the City Council last week, City Manager Bill Horne wrote, "Chief Holloway will review the documents and prepare a presentation we would like present to you at the second worksession in May." Holloway was recently installed as Chief of CPD, a job that would be eliminated if the Council chose to accept the Sheriff's proposal.
With a projected FY11 budget shortfall of about $9-million, a decision to outsource Clearwater's policing to the Sheriff could protect the city's quality of life services, parks and libraries, from further cuts. But it will also incur the wrath of citizens who believe that a hometown police force is an essential city service and is the most important factor in maintaining quality of life.
The Clearwater City Council has another one of those "tough decisions" in its immediate future. In addition to the hearing the arguments of the PCSO, Chief Holloway and its citizens, the Council may consider the experience of its neighbor to the north.
The International City/County Management Association conducted an independent analysis last year of the PCSO's relationship with the City of Dunedin. Their report, issued earlier this year praised PCSO as "one of the most impressive police agencies that they [ICMA project team] had seen or reviewed," and described the relationship between Dunedin and PCSO as "by far the best that we have seen and believe this should serve as a model on how to deliver regional police services."
"There's been a lot of parochialism in terms of providing policing and public safety in the U.S.," Leonard Matarese, the ICMA team leader for the Dunedin study, said, "Dunedin and PCSO are way ahead of the curve in terms of having a fifteen year history of sharing services that other cities are just getting around to because of economic conditions."
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