Four DuPage County townships will continue to have extra sheriff's deputies patrol their unincorporated neighborhoods for at least another year, despite being asked to pay more for the program.
However, officials in three of the townships say they might have trouble paying for the special policing districts if the county board continues with plans to have annual cost increases each of the next four years.
"We are not committed to the sheriff's program with their huge increase," Wayne Township Supervisor Thomas Arends said. "We signed the (latest) contract, but we're going to evaluate the renewal every year."
Sheriff John Zaruba opposed the county board's decision to require Wayne, Bloomingdale, Milton and York townships to pay more for the extra patrols that have been in place since the late 1980s.
But after county board members disregarded Zaruba's advice to reconsider the hike, the four townships signed one-year agreements that continue the extra patrols through March 31, 2013. The county board is expected to approve all the pacts during its Tuesday meeting.
"The residents voted for this back in the 1980s," York Township Supervisor John Valle said. "If the residents decide they don't want it anymore, they can vote to eliminate it."
The increase was proposed after county officials learned the townships weren't meeting a requirement to pay 80 percent of the six extra deputies' salaries and benefits. The four townships combined were contributing about $403,700 of the program's roughly $635,600 annual cost. Supporters say the increases are needed to close the $104,000 gap to reach the 80 percent level.
"To be fair to the county taxpayers, we had to pass along those costs," county board member Paul Fichtner said. "The compromise is that we were able to spread it out over a number of years."
Each township has a separate tax levy to pay for the deputies. Still, several township supervisors said they will have to dip into reserves to pay for this fiscal year's increase.
Milton Township last year paid nearly $198,000 to have three extra sheriff's deputies assigned to its unincorporated neighborhoods. Under the new agreement, Milton will pay about $20,000 more.
"We have enough in our levy to pay for this increase this year," said Milton Township Supervisor Chris Heidorn, adding that paying what the amount is expected to be several years from now "might be a problem."
Bloomingdale Supervisor Edward Levato estimates the township has enough reserve cash to pay for two years of increases.
"But we're not going to have enough thereafter," Levato said. "So we're either going to have to eliminate the program or have a tax increase."
Levato said he believes the township would need voter approval to increase the levy. Officials in other townships said a referendum question might not be needed.
In the meantime, officials in all four townships agree there is a benefit to having deputies assigned to specific areas.
"It's all about community policing," Heidorn said. "The deputies know the neighborhood. They know the people. They know the trouble spots."