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Could proposed cuts to police department cost public safety? - abc27 WHTM

Could proposed cuts to police department cost public safety?

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CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) -

This week, the Carlisle Borough Council is trying to figure out ways to avoid raising taxes.  As the current budget stands, residents are looking at a seven percent property tax hike.

At a meeting on Monday night, one proposed cut was to eliminate a lieutenant position at the police department. The position was recently left open when the lieutenant retired.

However, could that cost the community in terms of public safety? Chief Stephen Margeson said cutting that position, which carries a lot of responsibilities, would likely mean restructuring the entire police department.

"In this case, we don't believe that it's do-able or that it is practical to continue to have the same mission and same goals without keeping that position filled," he said.

Margeson said he is aware of the current budget issues but said it's not that he unwilling to sacrifice. In fact, he said the department has already seen a reduction of staffing. Staffing accounts for 90 percent of their costs.

Over the past few years, Margeson said four full-time civilian positions have been made part-time and, last year, there were 33 sworn officers.  Next year, there will be 31, not counting the possible cut.

This lieutenant position that's on the table is in charge of eight sections: administrative support, communications, information technology, accreditation, parking enforcement, community service officers, school crossing guards, and evidence/property and fleet management.

If other officers had to take on those responsibilities, Margeson said it would create a trickle-down effect in the department.  That, he said, could result in a longer response time, and officers being able to handle fewer calls.

"At some point, there needs to be an acknowledgement that if we are going to continue to save money in this way, then we have to accept the fact that our ability to deliver services is also going to be reduced," he said.

Borough council is encouraging residents to attend meetings Tuesday and Wednesday evening to offer their thoughts and suggestions on the matter.

President Perry Heath said, "Please give us some suggestions, give us some feedback, what services are you willing to do without? What is an acceptable tax increase is there is such a thing?"

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