06/14/11 — Chiefs: City's budget will allow both departments just to get by

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Chiefs: City's budget will allow both departments just to get by

By Gary Popp
Published in News on June 14, 2011 1:46 PM

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City Fleet Maintenance Supervisor Charles Hawley inspects a Goldsboro Police Department patrol car this morning at the city garage on Clingman Street. The City Council is not planning to buy any new police cars this year, making maintenance even more important.

The chiefs of both the Goldsboro Fire Department and city Police Department say the proposed budget for 2011-2012 will leave their departments financially strapped, but both Fire Chief Gary Whaley and Interim Police Chief Jeff Stewart said they plan to continue to provide residents with the same level of protection as always.

The proposed budget for the fire department is $5.2 million. If the recommended budget is approved, the department will operate with $73,496 less than what was appropriated for the current year.

"We are down to the bare minimum," Whaley said. "We are just going to have to make do. It is going to be a very lean year. We are not planning on buying anything. Basically, just kind of maintain what we got, maintain the level that we are at, hope we don't have a whole lot of breakdowns or any major breakdowns."

The proposed budget for police is $7.9 million. That includes an increase of $224,691, but Stewart had asked for more than three times that much. Still, he said, his department would work within its allocation.

"I think (the budget) is just like any other city's budget of this size," Stewart said. "We are doing the most we can do with the money available."

Whaley said he had been anticipating the fire department to be put in a position of keeping costs low in the next year.

"We started with a lean budget to begin with. We didn't ask for any new fire trucks or any major capital, just a few capital items that we would love to have that would make our operations a little bit better, but, naturally, those items got cut."

Whaley said he was hoping that revenue would allow for his employees to get a raise, but that it was unlikely.

"Everybody would like to have a raise, but the revenue is just not there to maintain what we need to maintain," he said. "If the revenue is not there, it is just not there. And I think everybody understands that we are just in that type of situation. A raise would be nice, but keeping your job would be a whole lot nicer."

While the city's proposal has the fire department tightening it's belt, Whaley said he supports the financial decisions made by the City Council.

"Where a lot of cities have cut back jobs and cut back services, we are maintaining the same services and maintaining the same level of employment, and I think that shows some good, conservative measures on the city's part," Whaley said.

Whaley said some belt tightening will come in the form of the department doing more in-house training and less trips out of town for personnel to attend training conferences. Whaley added the department will also not be able to buy any additional hand tools.

"Right now we are maintaining, at minimum, and that is what we are going to have to do for another year," Whaley said. "It is going to be tight, but I think all city departments are in the same boat."

Stewart said his department is facing similar circumstances. He had asked for more money for new computer software that would allow the police department to make some of its operations more high-tech by eliminating many paper reports but that it simply would have to wait until the funds become available.

Council members also scratched his request for $215,870 for 10 new police cars.

"(The City Council) asked if we can get by one more year with the fleet we have, and we can," Stewart said. "We will be able to answer all the calls. We are in good shape.

"The car issue is important to us, but if we had to do a year without cars, this is the year."

Stewart said the department will have an advantage over the next year by being able to evaluate the new Chevrolet Caprice that is hitting the market for the first time this year with a law enforcement package.

The Caprice is one of the top contenders to replace the department's long-time relationship with the Ford Crown Victoria, as the model is discontinuing its law enforcement package.

The Dodge Charger and Ford Taurus are other likely choices to eventually replace the fleet of Crown Victorias.

Getting no new vehicles means maintenance of existing vehicles becomes even more important, Stewart noted.

Of the police department's 65 vehicles, 25 have more than 100,000 miles on them. Those vehicles will cost an estimated average of $3,908 per vehicle to maintain, a total of nearly $100,000.

The other 40 vehicles in the fleet with lower mileage will hopefully cost less to maintain, he added.

Vehicles with 50,000 miles or less average $625 per year to maintain, vehicles with 50,000 to 80,000 average $1,647 per year to maintain and vehicles with 80,000 to 100,000 are average $1,852 per year.

"It would be nice to have a rotation of the vehicles, but this year we are not able to do it. It won't diminish our services to the citizens," Stewart said. "We always do what we can with the money we have."