Police take big hit in Pr. William budget

By Jennifer Buske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 7, 2010

Prince William County officials cut police positions and funding from other departments Tuesday to make up for a reduction in state aid.

As part of the Commonwealth of Virginia 2010 Appropriation Act, Prince William will receive $1.4 million less than expected, as state officials look to cut $60 million in aid to local governments, county officials said. Although the budget reduction will affect numerous departments, police will take the largest hit, losing eight vacant officer positions and part of the school resource officer program.

Prince William Budget Director Michelle Casciato said the state decided which agencies to cut funding from, and county officials had to then determine where in those agencies the cuts would be made. Supervisors unanimously approved the budget reductions at their Tuesday meeting.

The police department will loose about $520,600 from the $9.5 million in state aid it had been scheduled to get. The department will eliminate six middle school resource officers at the end of the school year and reduce the number of crime-prevention programs from 325 to 205 in fiscal 2011, county officials said. They said that although the county will continue to participate in National Night Out, police will no longer be involved in the planning.

"We think this reduction will have the least impact on services," Prince William Police Chief Charlie T. Deane said. "We, of course, will still respond to all calls at the middle schools."

Deane said the officers involved with crime prevention and the middle school will be reassigned to patrol duties. He said he had considered several police programs for cuts, including the bike patrol, gang unit and ambulance investigation unit, but decided this was the best move for the county. The 10 resource officers at the high schools will remain, he said.

Deane said of the middle school officers' work, "It's a great program, but in a time where we have to cut resources, we have to cut programs."

Casciato said the state's contribution to the police department, known as 599 funds, has been reduced by $2.5 million since fiscal 2008. The amount of 599 funds the county gets is based on population density, crime rate and social welfare caseloads, Casciato said. The state has projected it will cut $474,000 in police funding in fiscal 2012.

Also taking a hit are the county library system, the office of criminal justice services and the at-risk youth and family services program. Others affected will be the social services department, the sheriff's office, the commonwealth's attorneys office, the clerk of the court, the registrar and the finance department.

Officials said the cut amounts range from about $5,000 in the registrar's office to almost $395,000 from the at-risk youth and family services program. They said the cuts should not affect the level of service residents are accustomed to.

Officials also said they collected more than they had expected in delinquent tax revenue and excess fees, which will cover some cuts in the finance and clerk of the court offices.

Officials adopted a general fund fiscal 2011 budget of about $844 million this year, expecting to get nearly $40 million from the state. Casciato said the state's contribution to the county has dropped nearly $5.5 million since fiscal 2009, and the board's general policy is to not replace lost state funding with county general funds.

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