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Police budget near completion

John Colson

Local police representatives and the Aspen City Council will meet on Tuesday to make the final adjustments to the police department’s estimated $2.6 million budget for 2001.

That is to represent only a slight increase from the budget for 2000, which is expected to come out to $2.3 million. The police budget is roughly one fifth of the overall city operating budget every year.

The department, according to budget officer Kathy Tolle, is not planning to expand this year, other than to hire one or two officers to fill the patrol requirements created when the city annexed the Aspen Highlands base area earlier this year.

She said the department still plans to have 36 full-time employees and one part-timer, the same as this year. The department has been short-staffed by five officers for more than a year, she pointed out.

The department also is picking up the tab for two officers hired several years ago as part of U.S. President Bill Clinton’s program to put more officers on the street to combat crime, Tolle said. Those officers were each funded by a $75,000 grant spread over three years, she said, but one grant ended last year and the other is ending this year.

Another pair of federal grants applied for recently as a way to offset local costs were turned down, Toll said.

So as things stand now, she said, the department has positions for 27 “sworn officers,” although three of them remain unfilled as of this week, and that is where it is expected to stay for the time being.

New Police Chief Joe Cortez has been interviewing candidates and recently hired two officers, and Tolle said there are several “promising” candidates for the remaining positions.

The department’s budget is expected to rise by roughly 4 percent as part of a city-wide cost-of-living increase, compared to a “zero percent” increase from 1999 to 2000 because of declining sales-tax revenues.

As part of next year’s equipment replacement program, which Tolle said costs roughly $50,000 per year spread out over a 10-year period, the department will begin replacing the Saab sedans used for squad cars. She said that will include the 10 leased by the police department and another leased for the city manager’s office at a rate of $302 per month per vehicle. The department also will be buying some new light bars for the tops of the Saabs and some new rifles to be carried in the cars, she said.

Also included in the new budget are replacements of the officer’s APD jackets, which Tolle said will be paid for out of salary savings from the current year, thanks to the five unfilled positions.

Tolle said the starting salary for a police officer is $34,736 right now. But that is about to rise to $37,169 as a result of a recent survey of police salaries in resort towns by the Colorado Municipal League. Ninety percent of the department’s budget goes to salaries, she said.

The meeting between the City Council and police representatives is to be the “budget wrap” in preparation for formal adoption of the document in December.


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