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Police target of cuts

A state program that helps fund police departments, including Pulaski’s, has been cut by $25 million, or 12 percent, over the past two years.
Now, it’s faced with even deeper cuts in the coming fiscal year.
This prospect is leaving many state jurisdictions shuddering at the thought of either dropping the hatchet on some of the officers protecting their citizens or figuring out how to make up for these revenue losses.
In Pulaski, the program (commonly referred to as “599” because of the number assigned to the bill that created it in 1979) accounts for a quarter million dollars of the police department budget and covers the salaries of more than five officers.
The prospect of additional cuts has Town Manager John Hawley worried.
Hawley and Mayor Jeff Worrell attended a Virginia Municipal League (VML) briefing on the 599 funding cuts Thursday in Richmond. Both were already in the State Capitol for the annual VML and Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) Legislative Day at the Virginia General Assembly.
According to VML, the General Assembly appropriated $215.8 million to “599” in 2008. Gov. Tim Kaine is proposing a $190 million appropriation for 2010.
VML officials say a survey of the 39 cities, 128 towns and nine counties that depend on “599” funds determined “cuts deeper than those imposed by (Kaine) … could be devastating.”
The funds are available to towns, cities and counties that operate police departments and also meet certain law enforcement standards. Sheriff’s departments are funded under a separate program.
Ninety-one of the 176 jurisdictions that receive “599” funding responded to the VML survey. Although the response rate was only 52 percent, those jurisdictions responding represent 95 percent of the funds appropriated to the program.
The survey determined that “599” funding pays for the equivalent of 2,800 of the 8,500 sworn police officers working for the surveyed jurisdictions.
“These numbers mean that among the localities receiving this funding, state dollars pay for 33 percent of the total number of officers on the street,” VML states in a press release issued Thursday.
Although the percentage varies from one jurisdiction to another, in 15 of the 32 cities responding to the survey, the percentage was higher than 33 percent. In four cities it was higher than 50 percent.
In the City of Danville in South Central Virginia, “599” funds cover 65 percent of the officers patrolling its streets, according to survey statistics. That is the equivalent of almost 66 of the departments 102 sworn officers.
In nearby Rural Retreat, 90 percent of the salary of its one sworn officer is “599” funds.
“For small towns, these state dollars often make the difference between having police protection 24-7 or not,” the press release states.
A Fact Sheet accompanying the press release, states that two-thirds of the Commonwealth’s citizens rely on police departments as their “first public safety responder,” so cuts in cuts in police funding “are felt by citizens in all these communities.
“Additional cuts to police aid translate fewer police on the streets and would certainly lead to an increase in crime and victims of crime,” the fact sheet continues.
The document contends that further cuts would impact localities by increasing real estate taxes and reducing law enforcement officers and services.
“Some towns have concluded that their police departments may be forced to close down if cuts are deeper,” the VML adds.
It concludes, “Local governments recognize that the recession is taking a toll on state revenues. Virginians, however, expect common sense to prevail. Protecting life and property is perhaps the most fundamental of all government services.”

Police target of cuts

A state program that helps fund police departments, including Pulaski’s, has been cut by $25 million, or 12 percent, over the past two years.
Now, it’s faced with even deeper cuts in the coming fiscal year.
This prospect is leaving many state jurisdictions shuddering at the thought of either dropping the hatchet on some of the officers protecting their citizens or figuring out how to make up for these revenue losses.
In Pulaski, the program (commonly referred to as “599” because of the number assigned to the bill that created it in 1979) accounts for a quarter million dollars of the police department budget and covers the salaries of more than five officers.
The prospect of additional cuts has Town Manager John Hawley worried.
Hawley and Mayor Jeff Worrell attended a Virginia Municipal League (VML) briefing on the 599 funding cuts Thursday in Richmond. Both were already in the State Capitol for the annual VML and Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) Legislative Day at the Virginia General Assembly.
According to VML, the General Assembly appropriated $215.8 million to “599” in 2008. Gov. Tim Kaine is proposing a $190 million appropriation for 2010.
VML officials say a survey of the 39 cities, 128 towns and nine counties that depend on “599” funds determined “cuts deeper than those imposed by (Kaine) … could be devastating.”
The funds are available to towns, cities and counties that operate police departments and also meet certain law enforcement standards. Sheriff’s departments are funded under a separate program.
Ninety-one of the 176 jurisdictions that receive “599” funding responded to the VML survey. Although the response rate was only 52 percent, those jurisdictions responding represent 95 percent of the funds appropriated to the program.
The survey determined that “599” funding pays for the equivalent of 2,800 of the 8,500 sworn police officers working for the surveyed jurisdictions.
“These numbers mean that among the localities receiving this funding, state dollars pay for 33 percent of the total number of officers on the street,” VML states in a press release issued Thursday.
Although the percentage varies from one jurisdiction to another, in 15 of the 32 cities responding to the survey, the percentage was higher than 33 percent. In four cities it was higher than 50 percent.
In the City of Danville in South Central Virginia, “599” funds cover 65 percent of the officers patrolling its streets, according to survey statistics. That is the equivalent of almost 66 of the departments 102 sworn officers.
In nearby Rural Retreat, 90 percent of the salary of its one sworn officer is “599” funds.
“For small towns, these state dollars often make the difference between having police protection 24-7 or not,” the press release states.
A Fact Sheet accompanying the press release, states that two-thirds of the Commonwealth’s citizens rely on police departments as their “first public safety responder,” so cuts in cuts in police funding “are felt by citizens in all these communities.
“Additional cuts to police aid translate fewer police on the streets and would certainly lead to an increase in crime and victims of crime,” the fact sheet continues.
The document contends that further cuts would impact localities by increasing real estate taxes and reducing law enforcement officers and services.
“Some towns have concluded that their police departments may be forced to close down if cuts are deeper,” the VML adds.
It concludes, “Local governments recognize that the recession is taking a toll on state revenues. Virginians, however, expect common sense to prevail. Protecting life and property is perhaps the most fundamental of all government services.”