Financial moves prune BIPD | Around the Island

Financial moves prune BIPD

If there is one growing casualty of the 2009-2010 budget process and cost cuts made by the city administration, it is the Bainbridge Police Department.

Thus far, the BIPD has had to leave staff positions vacant, hold off on technical upgrades and will wait at least another two years for a new court and police facility.

At Wednesday’s budget meeting, the city council agreed to push back the purchase of new patrol cars and video monitoring equipment for police cruisers to zero out tax-supported spending in 2009 and 2010.

In-car police video cameras are used to objectively monitor traffic stops, arrests and pursuits. The city’s budget had requested $135,000 to implement the program, which has now been pushed back to 2011.

“It’s about what the city wants to do to reduce their liability exposure, and video cameras are considered a necessary part of police work,” said Bainbridge Police Chief Matt Haney. “When a defense attorney wants to see what their client was like before being pulled over or during an arrest, we could sit down and review that footage.”

Another $100,000 for three police vehicle replacements in 2009 was delayed two years and a further $255,000 earmarked for vehicle replacement in 2010 was delayed as well.

“I wasn’t surprised to hear about video cameras but funding for the cars was a surprise,” Haney said. “Hopefully council will give me the opportunity to explain our car replacement program so they have a clear understanding that officers will be driving in vehicles with well over 100,000 miles, and there is a degree of liability driving cars of that age and substantial increase in cost per mile.”

The city usually budgets for up to five vehicle replacements per year, though that money is rarely spent in full. The average life of a Bainbridge police car is four to five years, Haney said.

“We have an extremely lean budget for a police department,” Haney said. “This will make it more challenging for us to complete our mission.”

Home market still sluggish

Statistics from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service show continued slowing in the local housing market for October.

All of Western Washington experienced decreases in listings and closed sales on homes and condos. In Kitsap County, condo sales were down almost 40 percent from the previous year. However, there were some bright sides as residential home sales were down only 4 percent from the previous year with 236 total sales in October. The small decrease in residential homes is a promising sign that investors are still buying, despite a slumping economy.

“The truth of the matter is the market conditions are ideal for first time buyers and investors,” said J. Lennox Scott, CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate.

Cuts hit Kitsap Health District

The Kitsap County Health District has announced staff cuts to deal with continuing budget shortfalls.

The reductions will affect some of the most vulnerable citizens in Kitsap County as well as decreasing environmental services and increasing fees on the services the district provides. Major reductions include the elimination of a Spanish-speaking outreach program for families seeking health and dental services.

The organization’s Deputy Director, Scott Daniels, said the Health District had faced a 2009 deficit of $500,000. Staff cuts are a continuing trend for the organization, which has had to make yearly staff cuts totaling 23 full-time positions since 2005.

“Public health services in Washington State are now unsustainable,” Daniels said. “Local public health officials across the State are unable to meet the emerging public health threats of this decade, and provide the services citizens deserve and expect.”

Daniels attributes the funding shortfalls to reductions in federal grant options, Medicaid reimbursements that fail to adjust to inflation rates as well as Initiative-747 and the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax initiative that reduced and flattened backfill funding. The Health District is considering redistributing funding priorities, consolidating services, and spreading the federal dollars the group receives to continue services.

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