Washtenaw Police Services: What’s It Cost?

Sheriff outlines proposal for cost, not price, of deputies

Washtenaw County board of commissioners working session (Nov. 4, 2010): A presentation last week to the county board by sheriff Jerry Clayton represented more than 18 months of research, and aims to put to rest an issue that’s caused tension within the county for decades: What does it cost to put a sheriff’s deputy on patrol?

Bill McFarlane, Pat Kelly, Pat Vailliencourt

Left to right: Superior Township supervisor Bill McFarlane, Dexter Township supervisor Pat Kelly, and Manchester village president Pat Vailliencourt talk before the Nov. 4 working session of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners. They are all members of the county's police services steering committee, which recently made a recommendation related to the cost of delivering police services in the county. (Photos by the writer.)

During Thursday’s working session, Clayton told commissioners it’s important to agree on the cost of delivering police services, before moving on to the question of price – or what the county will charge for that service, presumably a lower amount. He also outlined several policy issues that the board needs to address, including what metrics they’ll use to determine future adjustments in cost and price.

Currently, there are 74 county deputies paid through contracts with local municipalities, including Ypsilanti Township, Ann Arbor Township and Superior Township, among others. The current price is $144,802 per police services unit (PSU) – a term that includes direct costs like salary and fringe benefits, as well as indirect costs and overhead. Current contracts call for a 4% increase next year, bringing the price to $150,594.

The police services steering committee (PSSC), appointed by the board of commissioners, has been studying the cost of delivering this service for well over a year. Its recommendation, delivered by Clayton to the board at Thursday’s working session, is to set the cost per PSU at $176,108. Setting the price will be an issue to tackle next, and is likely to be a more contentious one. Current contracts run through 2011, and negotiations will begin next year for 2012 and beyond.

The idea of agreeing on a cost should help address the price issue, Clayton said, and should help to assure contracting municipalities that the dramatic price escalations of recent years will stabilize. County officials have said those increases were necessary because the price of the contracts has been significantly lower than the true cost of delivering police services.

Several PSSC members attended Thursday’s session, including leaders of Manchester and the townships of Ann Arbor, Dexter and Superior. They spoke to commissioners, in some cases quite poignantly, about the value that these contract deputies provide to the county as a whole – a value that’s not just limited to the municipalities that pay for the deputies, they stressed. The argument is meant to persuade the board to offset the cost of those deputies by charging a lower price. In the past, some commissioners have argued that the county is subsidizing the patrols in a way that’s unfair to residents of cities like Ann Arbor, who also pay for their own police force.

Notably absent from the meeting were representatives from Ypsilanti Township, the largest unit that contracts for deputies and a member of the PSSC. A year ago, voters defeated a millage that would have paid for police services, and township officials cut the number of deputies it uses from 38 to 31. [See Chronicle coverage: "County Board OKs Ypsi Twp. Deputy Cuts"] On Nov. 2, however, township voters approved a police services millage, with support from 58% of voters. A similar millage proposal in Augusta Township was voted down the same day. Meanwhile, Ypsilanti Township has been in talks with the city of Ypsilanti about consolidating the two municipalities’ police services – Ypsilanti has its own police force.

Then there’s the lawsuit that the townships of Ypsilanti, Salem and Augusta filed against the county in 2006 over the issue of contract deputy prices – commissioner Jeff Irwin pointed out during Thursday’s meeting that the case is “still lingering.” A judge will be hearing a motion on that case this Wednesday, as the county tries to recoup more than $2 million from two of the three townships.

The board did not take action on Thursday. Comments from commissioners indicate mixed views on the proposed cost model, with some arguing that more indirect or overhead costs should be included. However, nearly all of them praised Clayton for his leadership on this issue, thanking him for bringing civility to the discussion. It’s an indirect commentary on the board’s rocky relationship with Clayton’s predecessor, Dan Minzey, who was aligned with Ypsilanti Township and was defeated by Clayton in 2008.

Sheriff Deputy Contracts: Clayton’s Presentation

Sheriff Jerry Clayton’s report to the board was similar to one he had reviewed the previous day with members of the police services steering committee – one of several PSSC committee meetings that The Chronicle has observed over the past few months.

He began by saying the board should be commended for forming the PSSC and bringing stakeholders to the table. The group includes leaders of the contracting jurisdictions, as well as representatives from the county board and law enforcement. The committee’s recent charge had been to drill down and identify the cost of delivering police services, he said. When that point is settled, they’ll have a foundation from which to move forward on policy issues, as well as setting the price for contract police services.

Clayton’s Presentation: Historical Background

Clayton sketched out a brief timeline of the issue, which dates back several decades and has generally been contentious. Originally, the sheriff would set the cost and negotiate pricing with each jurisdiction, separately. That evolved to a more formal model in 1984, based on a report by Susan Kattelus of Eastern Michigan University. The report suggested a formula for establishing the cost of a contract deputy. It included a set of direct costs – salary, fringe benefits, uniform allowance, overtime, liability insurance and training. In addition, it established a 39% indirect cost rate, plus a charge of 33 cents per mile for vehicles used by contract deputies.

This model was used until 2000, when the current approach was adopted. The current model is based on a study commissioned by the county and conducted by the Northwestern University Traffic Institute. Known as the Northwestern study, it found the amount being charged for these contract deputies was too low, and undervalued the true cost of providing these services. The study outlined three alternative costing models, each setting different indirect cost rates – one as high as 94%. [.pdf of Northwestern study]

The study also included a staffing analysis, looking at how many patrols would be required for covering the county. It identified a minimum number of patrols for the contracting jurisdictions, and an ideal number as well, Clayton said. [.pdf of Northwestern staffing analysis chart]

The study was well-done, Clayton said, but problems arose when policy issues connected to the report weren’t addressed. Many costs weren’t included – the cost of training officers, for example, or costs associated with hiring – which again led to an undervaluing of the true cost of providing these services. It explains why costs escalated over such a relatively short period of time, he said, as the county started trying to adjust for the true cost. It’s also why the issue of cost is an important one to address in a complete way, so similar problems don’t arise in the future, he said.

From the sheriff department’s perspective, Clayton said, it’s important that the county continue its commitment to public safety, while not overburdening the contracting jurisdictions. In an era in which they’re trying to shrink government, not expand it, it makes no sense not to work together. The more they strike a balance, he said, the better for everyone involved.

Clayton’s Presentation: The Work of the PSSC

A subcommittee of the PSSC was formed, and for about 18 months it has been hammering out the issue of what it costs to put a contract deputy on the road. Clayton clarified the difference between cost and price – the PSSC was focused only on cost at this point. The issue of what the county will charge for this service will be dealt with in the future, he said.

Jerry Clayton

Sheriff Jerry Clayton at the October 2010 meeting of the police services steering committee (PSSC), held at the county's Zeeb Road service center.

There was initially a lack of trust about cost issues, Clayton said, and there were a lot of myths about the cost of delivering services as well. “We attempted to debunk some of those myths.”

Terminology was one challenge. They returned to using the phrase “police services unit” (PSU) to indicate that there is more than just the deputy’s salary and benefits that go into the cost – that’s one of the myths. Currently, contracting jurisdictions are paying $144,802 per PSU. Current contracts call for a 4% increase next year, bringing the price to $150,594.

The committee wanted to drill down in terms of cost, Clayton said, particularly in the areas of indirect costs and overhead. One question asked was this: What would it cost you to establish and maintain your own law enforcement agency? What costs would you be responsible for?

Clayton’s Presentation: Recommended Cost Scenario

The committee developed three cost scenarios, Clayton said, and recommended one that set the cost of a police services unit (PSU) at $176,108 in 2012. [.pdf of chart with details of itemized costs Additional backup documentation: cost analysis formulas; overview of fringe benefit rates; overview of cost allocation plan (CAP)]

The cost is based on the current number of contract deputies – 74 – and includes direct, indirect and overhead costs. It was the lowest of the three cost scenarios developed by the committee, but the difference was negligible, as the highest scenario was only about $3,500 more – $179,697.

In the recommended scenario, direct costs per PSU total $135,258 and include salary ($74,302), fringe benefits ($45,278), a uniform allowance $1,764), gun allowance ($764) and fleet costs ($13,151). Indirect costs per PSU total $33,326 and include costs associated with central dispatch, liability insurance, information and technology systems, support services, and capital outlay, among other things.

Overhead costs total $7,524 per PSU in the recommended scenario. Most of that is related to sheriff administrator costs, including patrol supervisors.

Clayton’s Presentation: Policy Questions

Clayton identified four policy questions that he said the board would need to consider:

  • What is the length of future contracts? Clayton believed a minimum of four years would be optimal, allowing time for budgeting and providing job stability for employees.
  • What’s the process for adding or reducing PSUs? This needs to be clearly articulated, Clayton said, both for the current contracting jurisdictions as well as for those that might consider joining.
  • What are the process and metrics related to contract cost increases or decreases? The PSSC believes it has turned over every stone related to cost, Clayton said. But in setting the price, what would trigger an increase or decrease? For example, the contract could include a clause stating that if wages increase by 2%, then the price of a PSU would also increase by 2%.
  • What is the overall county commitment to support police services? This will become an easier issue to address, Clayton said, as they attempt to quantify the value of the service that contract deputies provide to the entire county.

Clayton said he’s talked to residents across the county, and they don’t care who responds when they place a 911 call – they don’t care about the color of the uniform. The sheriff’s department provides backup to other municipalities, like Ann Arbor, which has reduced the size of its police force. Just as residents move around the county, crime knows no boundaries, he said. The stronger the county is in public safety, the better the quality of life will be for residents.

The sheriff’s department now has 74 deputies paid for by contracting municipalities, plus 12 deputies paid for out of the county’s general fund. Decreasing either of those numbers would severely limit the sheriff department’s ability to provide public safety countywide, he said.

Clayton concluded by saying he didn’t expect the board to act in haste. The PSSC was presenting this cost recommendation for the board to consider and approve. The board will also need to act on the policy issues they’ve identified, he said, and ultimately make sure that everyone is comfortable with the price of the contracts.

The Township/Village Perspective

Four leaders from local governments that have contracts with the county for sheriff deputy patrols spoke during Thursday’s working session. All of them are members of the police services steering committee (PSSC).

Mike Moran

Mike Moran, supervisor of Ann Arbor Township, awaits the start of the Nov. 4 working session of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners.

Ann Arbor Township supervisor Mike Moran began by noting that several years ago, they’d been in the same room talking about the price and cost of deputy patrols, and the discussion had generated a fair amount of heat and distrust. The PSSC had evolved out of those discussions, he said, and has been extremely valuable for all involved. He hoped that commissioners appreciated how much time the committee had spent on this issue – they didn’t feel they could talk about price until they figured out the question of cost. “We went at this in a very dispassionate way and a very collegial way,” he said.

They looked at direct and indirect costs in great detail, and adopted the police services unit (PSU) model, which acknowledges that the cost includes more than just the deputy’s salary and benefits. For example, the committee looked at fleet costs, and considered not only the cost of a vehicle, but also its maintenance costs, equipment installed, fuel and resale value, among other things. These numbers aren’t frivolous, he said. Moran noted that although the committee is recommending one of three different cost scenarios, in reality the scenarios don’t differ much. The main difference is whether the scenario includes a percentage of the cost for the sheriff and undersheriff – the scenario being recommended does not include that cost.

Moran concluded by noting that the contracting jurisdictions put 74 deputies on the road. “We hope you appreciate the effort and sincerity we put into this,” he said.

Bill McFarlane, supervisor for Superior Township, thanked the sheriff and commissioners, and noted that the issue has been a contentious one for many years. It’s likely that they’ll never arrive at a solution that makes everyone happy, he said, but they’ve come up with something that everyone can live with. The contract deputies that are paid for by local municipalities benefit residents in the entire county, McFarlane said. The number of law enforcement officers throughout the county has decreased significantly over the past several years, he said – in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and at the state police post that serves this area. The contracting jurisdictions put boots on the ground, he said.

One example is the recent bank robberies in Ann Arbor – there were more sheriff’s deputies who responded than Ann Arbor police officers, he said, “and that’s ok.” Deputies paid for by Superior Township have helped in Ann Arbor and Pittsfield Township, as well as in areas that don’t have their own police department, he said. These are difficult economic times, and local governments need to work together.

The price that the county charges for these contract deputies should reflect these benefits, McFarlane said. And it would be nice to find a formula for calculating the price that would be stable, so that the issue wouldn’t need to be debated each time the contracts are negotiated. There are other issues that need their attention, he said. The work of the PSSC isn’t complete, and he hopes that the board would allow them to make a price recommendation as well, which would reflect the benefits that contract deputies bring to the entire county.

Pat Vailliencourt, president of the village of Manchester, made a poignant speech to the board. She began by saying that collaboration is essential, and that they all need to work together to make Washtenaw County as safe as possible, everywhere. Every time a contract deputy responds to a 911 call, they help ease the burden on the entire county, she said.

Vailliencourt then passed out photos of a 16-year-old girl, dressed up for homecoming. This is Jessica, she said. One day, soon after getting her driver’s license, Jessica drove an SUV out on one of the county’s gravel roads, going with her friend Hannah to pick up some clothes for a local shelter. The vehicle began to fishtail on the gravel, and Jessica overcorrected. The SUV flipped, trapping Jessica upside-down while strapped in by her seatbelt. There was blood and glass everywhere, Vailliencourt said, and the vehicle was on fire. Hannah found a cell phone and called 911. Then Jessica called her mom, told her what had happened, but said not to worry – they had called 911, and help would be there soon.

The accident happened in a township that didn’t have its own police department, Vailliencourt said, and that didn’t contract with the county for sheriff deputies. But a contract deputy from a neighboring jurisdiction took the call and responded, pulling Jessica to safety. Imagine getting a call like that from your child, Vailliencourt said. “I can imagine that – Jessica is my granddaughter.”

Right now, 70% of Manchester’s budget goes to pay for its contract deputies, Vailliencourt said. As the board deliberates over these issues, she urged them to remember Jessica, and to consider what the entire county gains by having contract deputies. There used to be 90 such deputies – now there are 74, because the price has forced some jurisdictions to cut back, she said. Please don’t make the price so high that they can’t afford to make the county a safer place for everyone to live and play and work and visit, she said.

Pat Kelly, Dexter Township’s supervisor, explained that she’d be brief, because her hoarse voice made it difficult to speak. She thanked the sheriff for bringing a new civility and common sense to the table. The PSSC would like to continue to work on this “sticky wicket,” she said. There’s value for the county in having contract deputies, she said. One benefit is jurisdictional flexibility – the recent bank robbery in Ann Arbor is an example of that, where the sheriff could pull in resources from throughout the county to help respond. She urged the board to allow the PSSC to put a value on that kind of activity, and to accept that there is a value to it, so that they can all move forward.

County Commissioners Weigh In

Jeff Irwin started by saying that he’s watched this issue for several years, and he thanked the sheriff for bringing a more detail-oriented, collaborative style to the discussion. There’s been an earnest, honest effort to dig into the cost of contract deputies, Irwin said, noting that he has attended several PSSC meeting where these issues have been discussed. It’s a complicated relationship, he said. Irwin also praised Clayton for other collaborative projects, such as a unified county SWAT team and dispatch.

However, Irwin noted that defining what to include as overhead is subjective. He felt that by not including certain things like the detective bureau, the cost is lower than it could have been. Clayton responded by saying that there were give-and-take discussions as the PSSC considered what was the county’s responsibility, and how much should be considered as costs for contracting jurisdictions. Another example is the cost of the vehicle fleet, he said – some felt the cost for that shouldn’t be assigned to the contracting agencies, but they understood the need for balance, and it was included.

Irwin returned to the proposed cost recommendation, and noted that the county is responsible for $6.5 million in overhead costs, while the contracting jurisdictions would pay just $556,000 – is that fair? he asked. The board has shown a strong commitment to public safety, but there are always calls to do more, and in some cases, people say that the county isn’t doing enough. He wanted to point out that under the recommended scenario, the county would be paying the vast amount of overhead costs.

Clayton replied that some of the $6.5 million is simply the cost of the sheriff’s department – those costs would still exist, even if there were no contract deputies. There was a great acknowledgment by PSSC members that the county had made a commitment to public safety, he said. When you think about what’s at risk countywide – the billions of dollars in property value – the cost of public safety is like an insurance policy, Clayton added. “I think it’s a pretty good deal.”

Irwin pointed out that in 2010, police services costs totaled $21.5 million. In 2011, the budget calls for about $19 million. What happened to the other $2.5 million, he asked. Clayton said that the $19 million doesn’t reflect certain mandated items, like marine services. Irwin noted that the 12 sheriff deputies paid for out of the county’s general fund are included in that additional $2.5 million too, but they aren’t mandated. Clayton countered that the sheriff is required to respond to calls – they can’t do that without some road patrols.

Irwin said the 12 general fund deputies reflect a commitment to public safety, but he doesn’t feel that they are a mandated service. He added that he’s pretty sure the courts don’t think so either, based on the outcome of the lawsuit filed against the county by three townships, “which is still lingering, I might add.”

[The lawsuit was filed in 2006 by the townships of Augusta, Salem and Ypsilanti over the cost of providing contract deputies. The county has prevailed in the case, which the townships appealed all the way to the state Supreme Court. This summer, Salem Township settled and agreed to pay the county $48,000 of costs in dispute. However, the issue has not yet been resolved over the amounts that Augusta and Ypsilanti townships owe. The county is seeking $2.1 million from Ypsilanti Township, and nearly $96,000 from Augusta Township. Responding to an email query from The Chronicle, Curtis Hedger – the county's attorney – said the county has filed a motion for judgment on the issue, which will be heard by 38th Circuit Court Chief Judge Joseph Costello on Wednesday morning, at the Monroe County Circuit Court.]

Irwin told Clayton that the county pays a tremendous amount for public safety, and he didn’t want that fact to be lost.

During Thursday’s meeting, Mike Moran of Ann Arbor Township responded to Irwin as well, saying that Irwin’s points are valid but don’t relate to the issue that the PSSC is addressing – the cost of putting a deputy on the road, not the county’s overall commitment to public safety. Irwin’s points are valid to raise in the next phase of discussion, Moran said, when they talk about the price that the county should charge for these deputies.

Moran also noted that part of the overhead costs are related to the county’s cost allocation plan (CAP), an amount charged to each department for things like the county attorney and administration. They have nothing to do with the cost of a deputy, he said – those costs would still exist if the contract deputies were totally eliminated. It’s unfair to mix the issues of cost, county contribution and price at this point, he said. All that the PSSC tried to do was to identify the cost of putting a contract deputy on the road.

Irwin said he understood Moran’s point, but he noted that the recommendation does include indirect costs like supervision, that have a relationship to the contract deputies. Irwin argued that the detective bureau does as well – detectives work on cases that originate with the contract deputies, for example. There’s a relationship between the number of contract deputies and the number of detectives needed, he said – but it’s not included in this cost model. That’s why he raised the issue.

Moran responded that they could parse it many different ways – what about the cost of prosecuted cases, for example? He said he was sure they’d have more heated discussions in the future as they address the issue of price, but he didn’t think it was a factor in setting the cost. The detective bureau is part of the criminal justice system, not linked to the contract deputies.

Pat Vailliencourt of Manchester also weighed in, reminding the board that some of the services being discussed are basic countywide services. Residents in the contracting jurisdictions pay county taxes for those services too, she said, in addition to the amount they pay for the contract deputies. Sometimes, it seems like they’ve been double-dipped, she said. They should receive the basic services, just like everyone else.

Leah Gunn spoke next, congratulating Clayton for bringing civility to the conversation. She noted that she chaired the committee that created the PSSC came up with the concept of a police services unit (PSU). She had several concerns about the proposed cost scenario, noting – as Irwin had – that the money the county pays for its 12 general fund deputies should be factored in. She wondered why the county paid for the entire overhead cost of the fleet, cost allocation plan (CAP) and retirement. These are questions that didn’t need to be answered that night, but were ones that cause her concern.

The sheriff patrols are the county’s largest non-mandated service, Gunn said. The courts agree, she said – and the Wayne County sheriff’s department doesn’t have any patrols, for example. Washtenaw County doesn’t want to go that far, but they are facing a budget deficit of over $20 million, Gunn said. There are other non-mandated services that she supports, she added, like Head Start and allocations to human services nonprofits. As a representative of Ann Arbor, she said she’s been concerned for some time about residents paying twice – once for the city police, and again for the sheriff’s department. It’s time for other communities to step up, she said, because it’s a burden on the county’s general fund.

Barbara Bergman, Jerry Clayton

Washtenaw County commissioner Barbara Bergman talks with sheriff Jerry Clayton prior to the start of the county board's Nov. 4 working session.

In his turn, Conan Smith highlighted the high cost of fringe benefits, and said that issue had to be on the table in the next round of labor negotiations. He said he didn’t share his colleague’s concern over the cost of the detective bureau, but suggested that one approach might be to charge some kind of a fee related to that work. He said he felt good about the items that were included in the cost.

Smith asked Clayton to explain why it was a good idea to create four-year contracts. Clayton replied that longer contracts provide more stability for an organization, both for budgeting purposes as well as job security for employees. He said the board and administration talk a lot about valuing the county’s employees – sheriff’s deputies are part of that group, he said. In terms of budgeting, the more he can spread his fixed costs over a greater number of people, the more he’s lowering the cost of doing business.

Smith suggested aligning the contract terms with the county budget cycle. Clayton agreed, adding that there could also be clauses built in to the contract that would allow for adjustments throughout the contract’s term.

Smith also asked about mutual-aid agreements – weren’t those in place between the sheriff’s department and other jurisdictions, like Ann Arbor? Clayton said that they did have formal mutual-aid agreements, as well as informal backup response. If a jurisdiction called for mutual aid, everyone would respond. But in the absence of activating mutual aid, it falls to the sheriff’s department to respond, because they have jurisdictional responsibility, he said. That response is more and more prevalent, he said, because there are fewer officers in other jurisdictions. He said he didn’t want to imply that other police departments aren’t responding, but it’s simply that the sheriff’s department is often in a better position to do so throughout the county.

Smith said that for him, the issue isn’t how many road patrols there are or how many police officers are in Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti, but rather how many total officers are required to protect the entire county. That’s a tougher question, and one they need to delve into next, he said. As they deliberate over the price for contract deputies, the county’s ability to access those contract deputies – lessening the need for the 12 general fund deputies – would be a big incentive for the board in deciding to invest in the contract deputies, he said.

Mark Ouimet, who serves on the PSSC, noted that setting the price for the contract deputies will entail assigning value to them. Setting the length of the contract will be another important decision, especially for jurisdictions that will need to seek voter approval for a millage to pay for the deputies. As they move through this process, they’ll be setting the tone not only of what the value is for these services, but also for the relationship between the contracting and non-contracting jurisdictions, he said.

Kristen Judge noted that it’s been a long journey. She recalled that she and Clayton were both elected for the first time in 2008, and that they had both said during their campaigns that they’d be more objective in dealing with these issues, because they hadn’t lived through the turmoil that the dispute over police services had caused for so many years. Many relationships have been healed over the past two years, she said, and she wanted to maintain that same tone. She urged her colleagues on the board to set aside their feelings and think about the fact that they represent all residents in the county.

Economic development is clearly tied to public safety, she said – if the county has a high crime rate, there won’t be job growth. And referring to Vailliencourt’s story about her granddaughter, Judge said you can’t put a dollar figure on things like that. The bottom line, she said, is that “residents expect us to keep them safe.”

Judge asked Clayton how many boots on the ground would be recommended for a population the size of Washtenaw County, with its 340,000 residents.

That depends on the priorities of the community, Clayton said. For example, what’s the expectation for response time – three minutes, or ten? Is the focus on crime prevention, or simply responding to crime? For example, his department prefers to focus on the metric of per-capita crime, he said, rather than case clearance rates, because it tells them how successful they are at preventing crime.

Judge then spoke of her concerns about the decline in the total number of police officers working in the county over the past five years. In setting the price for contract deputies, at what point is the price too high for municipalities to afford? What would the community look like if no one can pay for these deputies? That’s a scary thought, she said. Clayton agreed.

Judge outlined some of the next steps they needed to take, including setting a formula to calculate how to increase the cost of the contract deputy when others costs escalate, as well as a formula for adjusting the cost when more deputies are hired, or when positions are eliminated. In addressing the issue of value, she noted that contracting jurisdictions don’t charge another jurisdictions when one of their deputies is called away to that jurisdiction, like Ann Arbor. Judge also noted that some municipalities use the jail more than others, yet they’re not required to pay more for it.

Judge recommended bringing a resolution to the next board meeting, on Nov. 17, that would accept the cost recommendation of $176,108 per police services unit (PSU). She suggested identifying 20% or 15% as a value that the county could put on these services. That is, the county would cover 20% or 15% of the cost, in setting the price that contracting jurisdictions would pay. She suggested that the PSSC be asked to recommend a price – and to identify a tipping point, beyond which the municipalities wouldn’t be able to afford a contract deputy.

Barbara Bergman said that the next meeting would be too soon to vote on a cost recommendation – there are too many unanswered questions, she said. Though she represents the county, she also represents her Ann Arbor constituents, Bergman said, who pay taxes for their own police force. Among other things, she wanted a more fulsome discussion around issues like the cost of central dispatch and the detective bureau.

Gunn noted that they also need to look at this issue in the context of the 2012 and 2013 budgets, and that they need to bring the newly elected commissioners into the discussion when they take office in January 2011. There’s plenty of time before they need to vote on this recommendation, she said, and they should take the time to get it right.

Judge suggested that commissioners email their questions to Greg Dill of the sheriff’s department or SiRui Huang of the county’s budget office – they likely already have the answers, she said. As for the budget, voting on a cost recommendation won’t have any impact on the budget, Judge noted – this is just affirming a cost, not a price.

Jessica Ping, who chairs the board’s working sessions, was the last one to ask questions. She wondered whether the Northwestern study had looked at how other counties handle their police services. Clayton said there was a reference to Oakland County, which contributes a greater portion of county resources to pay for contract patrols, thus lowering the price. It’s a philosophical question, he said, about how much of the cost you want to pass on to contracting jurisdictions.

Ping also asked what would happen if one of those jurisdictions decided to pull out of its contract, as Ypsilanti Township had done this year. [See Chronicle coverage: "County Board OKs Ypsi Twp. Deputy Cuts"] The county absorbed a lot of the cost for that decision, she noted, and if they move to longer-term contracts, that could be an issue.

Clayton replied that the current contracts call for a six-month notification if the contracting jurisdiction decides to change the number of deputies they use. That six months provides some protection, he said. Clayton said he viewed what happened with Ypsilanti Township as an isolated incident – it was a county board decision to allow the township to reduce the number of deputies without that six-month notification.

Ping concluded the discussion by saying she also felt it was important to have the four new commissioners involved. [They are Rob Turner (R-District 1, replacing Republican Mark Ouimet), Dan Smith (R-District 2, replacing Democrat Ken Schwartz), Alicia Ping (R-District 3, replacing Republican Jessica Ping, her sister), and Yousef Rabhi (D-District 11, replacing Democrat Jeff Irwin). Elected on Nov. 2, they'll take office in January, along with the re-elected incumbents.]

Present: Barbara Levin Bergman, Leah Gunn, Kristin Judge, Jeff Irwin, Mark Ouimet, Ronnie Peterson, Jessica Ping, Ken Schwartz, Conan Smith.

Absent: Wes Prater, Rolland Sizemore Jr.

One Comment

  1. By Leah Gunn
    November 8, 2010 at 1:17 pm | permalink

    Slight correction, Mary – I chaired the committe that came up with the concept of a “police services unit” and costs attached thereto – NOT the PSSC. Yeah, it’s confusing…