DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba says a plan to charge four townships more for additional police patrols in unincorporated neighborhoods could jeopardize the program and result in the termination of up to six deputies.
County board members Tuesday agreed to send a letter notifying Bloomingdale, Milton, York and Wayne townships they might be required to pay annual increases over the next four years to maintain "special policing districts" that have been in place since the late 1980s.
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The four townships combined are contributing about $403,700 of the program's roughly $635,600 annual cost. But county officials said the townships are supposed to be paying 80 percent of the six extra deputies' salaries and benefits. Supporters say the increases are needed to close the $104,000 gap to reach the 80 percent level.
Each township has a separate tax levy to pay for the deputies. Still, supervisors in three of the townships are questioning whether residents can afford to pay more for the program -- even if the increases are spread out.
Zaruba echoed those concerns Tuesday while speaking to members of the county board's finance committee.
The sheriff said the increases would make it "impossible for one or all of these townships" to continue participating in the program. The end result, he added, would be terminating "the most successful crime prevention program in the county and eliminating up to six deputy sheriffs and reducing our ability to provide police services to our community."
Zaruba said the original agreement was to have the townships pay 80 percent of the cost of six starting deputies' salaries -- not the salaries of the six deputies assigned to the patrols. He then took responsibility for not making that distinction clear in subsequent agreements, adding that he "never anticipated a financial fight" over the program.
Bloomingdale Township officials have said they would need voter approval to increase the levy enough to raise the money needed to address the shortfall. So it might be easier to drop the program and stop collecting the special tax, they added.
It's the same dilemma for Milton Township, which has three extra sheriff's deputies assigned to its unincorporated neighborhoods.
"This is a way for the townships to supplement police protection across the county," said Milton Township Supervisor Chris Heidorn, adding the deputies assigned to Milton also respond to calls outside the township. "If we (townships) don't do this program, the sheriff is going to be out six officers."
Zaruba urged board members to reject the proposed increase, which is expected to be voted on by spring. "It's not the time to fix something that's not broken," he said.