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Police ask cities for $23,449 increase

SRO to continue in both school districts

With the school resource officer (SRO) staying where he is and no plans to add another officer, the Colby-Abbotsford Police Department is asking its two cities for a 2.9 percent budget hike next year.

The 2021 budget proposal approved by the joint police commission Monday includes just over $1 million in revenues and expenses, with the cities of Abbotsford and Colby being asked to pay a total of $835,512 for police protection.

That represents a $23,449 increase over this year, which includes just under $12,900 more for Abbotsford and roughly $10,600 more for the city of Colby.

Police chief Jason Bauer said he originally drew up two versions of the budget, including one that accounted for the loss of SRO Patrick Leichtnam, who was considering a full-time job offer from the Abbotsford School District.

However, Bauer said he recently learned that Leichtnam had turned down the job offer at the district.

“They couldn’t come to an agreement, so to the benefit of our department and both school districts, he will remain as the CAPD’s school resource officer for both schools,” Bauer said.

This means Leichtman will continue to split his time equally between the Abbotsford and Colby school districts, which will each contribute about $26,000 toward his salary and benefits.

“Hopefully, it’s a longterm relationship between all three entities,” Bauer said, referring to the CAPD and the two neighboring school districts.

Bauer had also floated the idea of adding a ninth officer, but that was not part of the budget he presented on Monday, which passed unanimously by the commission and will now go to each city council for approval.

Even though the number of officers will stay the same next year, salaries will go up by a combined total of $15,262 — the largest single increase on the expense side of the budget. That accounts for annual raises included in the police union budget, which is currently being renegotiated for the next three years.

At the same time, though, heath insurance costs for the officers are projected to drop by as much as $9,000, based on a single-person plan replacing a family plan. The insurance line item is tentatively set at $127,471, but that is likely to change once the 2021 rates are known.

The commission voted on Monday to pursue membership in a health insurance cooperative that could lower costs over time for the department.

If the CAPD were accepted into the co-op, Bauer said single-person premiums would go up significantly and family plan costs would drop slightly, but deductibles would go down for everyone. All together, the co-op’s premiums would be 1.45 percent higher than what the CAPD is currently paying, he said.

However, going forward, the co-op is expecting a zero percent increase in premiums, while the CAPD normally sees its premium hikes between 3 and 12 percent every year. The co-op’s rates have remained flat for past two years, he noted. Based on Bauer’s recommendation, the commission voted to apply for a coop plan that includes a $2,000 deductible for single plans and $4,000 for families. The CAPD’s current plan has $3,000 single-person deductibles and $6,000 for families, with the officers paying the first $250 for single plans and $500 for families.

Both the city of Colby and the Colby School District are part of the same coop, and both entities have seen savings over the past couples year.

“I know this co-op been a good deal for the school district, as far as keeping premiums low,” said commission president Todd Schmidt, who is also a member of the school board and city council.

Bauer said the CAPD won’t know for another three months if it has been accepted to the consortium, but he’s confident that the department’s lack of “highrisk” employees will help its case.

Schmidt agreed.

“With the demographics of our officers here, I’d say we’d be an ideal candidate for the co-op,” he said. “Unless there’s something I’m not aware of, I can’t imagine why they’d turn us down.”

Regardless of whether the CAPD is accepted to the co-op or not, Bauer said the department won’t know what the 2021 rates are until November. The commission will still need to vote at a future meeting on what insurance option it wants to choose.

One expense in the 2021 budget that is beyond the department’s control is $8,250 for switching to a new records management software program. Bauer said the department’s current system will no longer be usable after next year, so it will need to spend $4,000 for installing new software from Core Technologies.

Going forward, the department will need to pay a $4,250 annual maintenance fee for the new system, plus $1,200 a year for maintaining old records under the current system. Bauer said he will be looking for grants and donations to offset some of those costs.

On the revenue side, the 2021 budget includes a $29,337 carry-over from this year’s budget, which includes $25,000 to help cover the cost of the SRO. This will leave about $95,000 in the fund balance.

Other business

_ Colby resident Mike Kreciak complained to the commission about what he sees as unfair treatment against by the department when it comes to ongoing issues with his neighbors. Kreciak was recently found guilty of disorderly conduct related to an incident last October, and he believes the CAPD showed favoritism to his neighbors in that case.

Kreciak accused the department of continually ignoring his neighbors’ dogs running loose, despite evidence on his home security videos. He said his neighbors were finally fined for the dog issue last October, and they retaliated by calling the police later that month.

“I believe these neighbors should not have any dogs, in the best interest of public safety,” he said, before providing video footage and other information to the commission president.

_ During an update on training opportunities for officers, commissioner Dennis Kramer asked why the CAPD was not invited to a recent simulator training hosted by the Clark County Sheriff’s Department that focused on de-escalation tactics. Bauer said the departments don’t always share training opportunities, but all officers practice similar techniques.

“They’ve been doing simulators for years, and you always try to talk them down before you use force,” he said. “You’re always trying to de-escalate the situation.”

_ The commission approved a $12,500 transfer out of the department’s metal fund, which includes fee revenue for issuing license plates, with $8,000 going into an account for sick time payouts and $4,500 going into the general budget.

_ The monthly K-9 report indicated that deployment of the drug-sniffing dog resulted in 11 arrests in August.

_ The commission approved $23,777 in monthly expenditures.