Town Agrees To Address LEOPS Costs

BERLIN– Town officials committed this week to finding a way other than casino revenue to fund law enforcement pensions.

The Berlin Town Council voted unanimously this week to acknowledge the Local Development Council’s request that the municipality phase out the use of casino funds for the Law Enforcement Officers Pension System (LEOPS). Instead, the town will gradually make LEOPS a general fund expense.

“The key is the intent, not so much the dates,” Town administrator Mary Bohlen said.

This fall, when Berlin officials presented the Local Development Council (LDC) with a multi-year plan for casino revenue spending—highlighted by the fact that the town would use most of its casino revenue to fund LEOPS—LDC officials made it clear they didn’t think the town should depend on casino impact grants as the sole source of funding for the pension program. The LDC approved the town’s fiscal year 2024 -2026 casino revenue spending plan but made it clear that the town should work to decrease the casino funding being used to pay for LEOPS over time.

In acknowledgement of that request, staff presented the council with a motion addressing the issue on Monday. The motion recognizes the LDC’s request and states that officials are “committed to working toward this goal and to continue to give due consideration to other areas of funding commitment for these funds.”

Councilman Jay Knerr suggested the town begin phasing out the casino revenue as the sole funding mechanism for LEOPS sooner rather than later.

Mayor Zack Tyndall said that wasn’t necessary, as the town’s fiscal year 2024-2026 plan had been approved by the LDC. He also questioned how another funding source could even be identified in the interim.

“I think the time to look at that is through the budgeting process,” he said.

Councilman Jack Orris said he thought the LDC wanted to see a date when the town would begin phasing out the funding that was prior to submission of its next spending plan. Tyndall disagreed, stressing that the town’s current spending plan was approved and a new plan wasn’t needed until fiscal year 2027.

At the suggestion of Councilman Steve Green the council agreed to compromise to include in the motion the town’s intention to submit a new casino revenue plan by the end of fiscal year 2025.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.