BELLAIRE - At the last village council meeting, Bellaire officials passed an ordinance to begin hiring part-time police officers in the village. It was decided that hiring part-time officers would dramatically reduce the need for full-time officers to work overtime hours, of which the department has been accruing an excessive amount.
Finance Committee Chairman Josh Meyer recently spoke about the decision, specifically in regards to the financial aspects which made the decision a must for the village.
"We want to help out the police department," Meyer said, "and we have to look at the aspect of the finances also."
According to Meyer, the Bellaire Police Department has totaled approximately 1,500 overtime hours from the beginning of 2014 to the middle of April. He explained that from a business standpoint, this is definitely not a fiscally ideal situation for the village. Because overtime hours are "time-and-a-half", the village is essentially paying more for work that could be completed by part-time officers at a regular rate of pay. Also, the village would not have to pay for the benefits of its part-time officers.
"It's a big savings for us. When you can just hire part-time guys on at $12 an hour and not have to pay into the insurance and benefits, it's a huge savings. Plus, it strengthens the police department. They need more guys. That's the whole aim and goal of this," he said.
Additionally, Meyer believes that the amount of overtime hours being collected by the department is getting to a point where it is going to become an issue of safety as well. No matter the job, working excessive hours on a regular basis can lead to accidents, under-productivity and even health risks for the employee.
"One of our greater concerns is when you have guys working that many hours at a time, that's a safety issue for them, for the people they're protecting. We're trying to make changes to make things work better - 1) For the safety of the people of Bellaire; 2) For the safety of the officers and; 3) To alleviate the financial burden it is causing to the budget," he said.
Much of the opposition to the decision at Bellaire's last council meeting regarded the high rate of pay for new part-time officers while the full-time officers at the department have not had a raise for nine years. The $12 pay rate is over three dollars higher than the old rate for part-time officers. Mayor DiFabrizio stated that the lower rate was not enough incentive for officers to want to work part-time in the village.
In regards to giving the full-time officers a raise, Meyer said that the village simply does not have the funding for it currently. He stated that even the county auditor has informed the village that a raise for the police department is not possible given the current deficit in the budget.
"It's not a raise for the part-timers because we don't have any part-timers," Meyer said. "It's a new starting rate for them, and it's a fair starting rate. Hopefully, it will attract some good officers to work there and it will help alleviate the situation."
Meyer said that the issue of part-time police officers has come up in the past couple years, but nothing was ever instituted. He explained that if part-time officers had been hired then, the village would have saved a great deal of money.
"If we would have implemented it two years ago in 2012, to date it would be close to $80,000 that we would have saved. It would have saved us about $17,000 this year alone," he said.
Meyer explained that the Water and Service Depts. in the village have had great success with utilizing part-time employees, and it has saved the village a good deal of money. "(Village Administrator) Dan Marling has done a fantastic job with implementing part-timers and produced a great savings on the enterprise side of things. We need to see that happen on this side of things (as well)," he said.
" We've got to implement changes," Meyer said, "and it's going to take some time for these changes to take effect. We've got to make some changes to alleviate our budget woes. Change is hard, but when it's implemented, good things can happen. And I think great things will happen (with this)."
Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.