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Front Royal police program funded in budget

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Some late number shifting helped the town police department receive funds in next year's budget for a program aimed at keeping officers.

Members on Tuesday voted 6-0 in favor of Town Manager Steven Burke's proposed spending plan for fiscal 2013 after a public hearing held on the proposal. No residents spoke at the hearing. Town Council approved the ordinance on first reading appropriating the funds as set forth in Burke's budget. Councilman N. Shae Parker proposed an amendment, which members also unanimously approved that shifted $60,000 from various line items to the police department to fund a master police officer program.

Parker said he offered the amendment "so that the public can see that we're serious about this."

The councilman read the amendment, made lengthy by the fact he cited each line item and the amount he sought reallocated to the police department. Councilman Thomas Conkey lauded Parker and town staff for the efforts made to find funding for the program.

"The council takes this challenge very seriously," Conkey said. "We recognize that our first responsibility is the public safety and welfare. We believe that the ... master police officer program is something that's going to be good for the community."

Approximately $40,000 of the $60,000 reallocated for the program came from the police department's budget, Parker said, adding that the agency made its own sacrifices to fund the initiative.

Town Council also voted on a resolution to approve an ordinance -- "under protest" -- mandating that employees pay a 1 percent increase into the Virginia Retirement System.

As proposed in Burke's budget, employees would receive a 1 percent increase in salary to offset the rising cost of retirement. The Virginia General Assembly early passed legislation mandating that local government employees pay 5 percent into the retirement system. Localities were allowed to spread out the increase over a maximum of five years.

Council approved the ordinance on its first reading to increase the employee contribution to the VRS by a rate of one percent per year for five years. The rate would take effect July 1.

Burke explained that employees still see a reduction in salary as a result of the rate increase because they must pay additional FICA tax on the 1 percent contribution.

Parker asked to amend the language of the resolution to note the council approved the changes "under protest." Council unanimously supported Parker's motion. However, the original ordinance with the amendment did not receive the council's full support as Vice Mayor Chris W. Holloway voted against the measure. Parker before making his motion cited information from the VRS indicating the legislation sought to bring some relief to localities and schools.

"Did we see any budget relief from this?" Parker asked of Burke.

"No, sir," Burke replied.

"I think this was the state just working politics," Parker said. "They didn't really know what they were doing but somebody told them to so they did and it doesn't help any of the localities. ... It doesn't benefit the employee."

Conkey also criticized the Virginia General Assembly.

"It costs everybody more money and I don't know who it saves money," Conkey said. "This is a really good demonstration of what they've done to the localities."


"no citizens spoke at last night's public hearing on the budget". Here is what you should know about what this lame duck Council will be leaving us with.
. Transferred $1476000 from the electric fund ( does not include the monthly repayment cost of the $1500000 borrowed from the electric fund for the new Town Hall.
. Transferred $678000 from water fund
. Transferred $748000 from sewer fund
. Transferred $40000 from trash fund
Total transferred to the General fund to balance budget about $ 2900000
What does this mean?
. Other departments and police get a 1% raise and a $250 one time bonus to cover increases in retirement, health care cost which puts them into loosing financial position for another year.
. This Council's strategy of taking more and more money from the electric, water, sewer, and trash reserve funds to balance the General fund will be what will weakened our community in the not so distant future.
Where is the strategy to attract new living wage jobs to Front Royal? I saw nothing in this budget of any vision in building the tax base so we will not have to continue to raid our department reserve funds. Those fund reserves are there to have money for capital improvements in updating old systems across our community, not supporting the General Fund of the Town.
Mayor Darr you now 2 more years , where is your vision to stop this madness and start moving the Town forward without giving into the demands of the county. I did not see any vision in this new budget just the same old same old.

Wow, sounds like a governing style modeled directly after the Federal Government's proven inability to spen OUR money wisely. If I learned one thing while being unemployed several years ago, it's that using one line of credit to pay down another line of credit only buys you time to correct your situation. If you do nothing, then bankruptcy is in your future. Guess that only applies to private citizens and not government entities.

Hmm, was it really funded? Or did the council or Town Manager brow beat the department into even more sacrifices to pay for it's own retention program? You can't be expected to have the same level of service from your local public servants if you don't pay for it. The budget has been cut for the department for the last 7 years and the council still expects them to do more with less? Well guess what? You can't do more with less. You get less service because the people that are left are covering for all the positions that are open, while being expected to do their jobs as well.

Sacrifices need to be made everywhere in these tough financial times. I just hope a lot of thought went into the continued trimming of the police budget. It may be you that is calling 911 for assisitance when responding officers are unable to make it to your aid because of the very high mileage patrol fleet and the fact that the cars will be breaking down far more frequently than they can be replaced. I can't remember the last time I had an American car that performed daily tasks reliably once over 100,000 miles let alone the demands of an EMERGENCY Vehicle. Heck maybe we can just paint them another color and the new paint should "boost moral" and probably hold the cars together just a little longer while giving the outward appearance of having a reliable vehicle for an emergency response. Because that was just such a great idea the first time it was done. Oh, and fire the guy from the town who paints them. They are peeling worse then an old banana. Guess you get what you pay for, in EVERY facet of life.

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