2016-11-03 / News

Budget uncertainties delay police merger

810-452-2652 * lrocha@mihomepaper.com

SWARTZ CREEK and MUNDY TOWNSHIP – The city of Swartz Creek and Mundy Township will not consolidate their police departments by the Jan. 1 target date.

The Police Authority Board has said they need more time to finalize the budget proposal the two units of government need in order to vote on whether to proceed with the merger.

City officials also want more time to consider the cost of police services under the proposed merger.

The Police Authority Board would have needed a green light from the City Council and township Board of Trustees by Monday in order to get all of the groundwork for the consolidation completed before the end of the year.

The Authority had been racing to wrap up a budget draft to present to both governing units in early November, but certain unknowns regarding pensions and OPEB (other post-employment benefits) brought the process to an abrupt crawl.

“My township board wants numbers,” said Mundy Township Treasurer Joe Oskey, a member of the Authority Board.

Shawna Ferry, an accountant with Flint Township-based Taylor & Morgan CPA, said it could take “a good three months” to obtain an actuarial analysis of the data.

Ferry said the budget assumptions are based on costs that fluctuate.

“It’s a moving target,” she said.

An analysis would show the likelihood that the assumptions will be in line with actual post-employment costs years into the future.

“A budget is always a guess,” said Mundy Township Clerk Tonya Ketzler, who also serves on the Authority Board.

Juanita Aguilar, the city’s finance director, said she’s “not comfortable” with some of the numbers.

City Manager Adam Zettel added that city leaders need time to discuss the details of the overall plan, including the budget.

He said, under the current proposal, it appears the city will get a “reduction in hours of service” and an “increase in cost to the city.”

Police Chief Dan Atkinson said the city can maintain the same coverage with the current costs.

Swartz Creek Police Lt. Matt Bade said the city actually will get more service.

“A hidden gem of the plan is that the service to Swartz Creek has increased,” Bade said, adding that when city officers are in court, busy processing a suspect or tied up on scenes, township officers will backfill so there is always an officer available to handle emergencies in the city.

The Authority Board now has until June 30 to submit a merger proposal for final approval from the city and township.

Authority Board Chairman Curt Porath said it likely will not take that long.

The Authority Board is made up of three representatives from each of the municipalities and one neutral member.

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