OCEAN CITY – Although the Ocean City Police Department has cut over $1 million from its budget over the course of the last four years, Mayor Rick Meehan urged them to find a way to trim another big expense.
Chief Bernadette DiPino updated the Mayor and Council on Tuesday, citing the department’s ongoing efforts to cut spending and improve efficiency while still providing the same level of protection and service to the public.
DiPino stated that the department saved almost half a million dollars from their fiscal year 2008 budget of just over $18.7 million and is taking “huge steps” to continue to trim overtime and operational costs.
“We are looking at what we do and how we do it and then we do it in a more efficient manner. Even in boom times, it’s the right thing to do”, said DiPino.
The overtime budget for the department makes up almost 60 percent of the town’s entire overtime budget in the summer months, and the month of June, makes up 25% of that total, or more than $400,000.
Budget Manager Jennie Knapp said last week in her overtime report the reason the month of June is so high as far as overtime goes is the majority of seasonal officers are not sworn in until the second week of June, necessitating year-round officers to work overtime to compensate.
Meehan challenged the chief to try to curb that large spike in overtime spending in June.
“Wouldn’t it be more advantageous to start their training early or at some point to get down to one graduation class and get them sworn in earlier in order to cut down on overtime costs? The sooner you bring them on or even having one graduating class would save us a lot of money in overtime spending,” he said.
DiPino said most of the seasonal officers are college students and have scheduling conflicts with classes and testing.
“If we moved the June graduating class, we’d lose a large pool of officers,” she said.
DiPino said the fact that “the largest returning number of summer time officers on memory” are returning this year could reduce overtime costs, reporting only 59 returning officers will only have to go through a modified training session.
Council President Joe Mitrecic praised former Councilman Jay Hancock for his efforts to educate people on the importance of retaining summertime police officers. “The fact that we have 59 returning summer cops is a statement that he got something done,” he said.
Mitrecic also gave “kudos” to DiPino for “doing your part to slim the department down in these times” by reducing the overtime budget.