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Butler County bill for police protection: $113 million. But not everyone pays the same.

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Posted at 11:22 AM, Jun 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-22 11:22:09-04

Service and equipment differences in Butler County police departments mean that some residents pay an average of hundreds of dollars per year into those budgets while others face an average cost of less then $100.

Jails, dispatch centers, community policing programs, body cameras are all things that can distinguish one Butler County police budget from another, which is why why some residents are paying an average of $355 per year for police protection and others $74 annually.

Residents in Butler County as a whole pay about $113 million for police protection both to the Butler County sheriff and in jurisdictions that operate their own police departments. The sheriff’s department is the chief law enforcement agency, and its budget for this year is $36 million, which calculates to $97 per resident because everyone in the county pays taxes into the county coffers.

The sheriff’s department has a staff of almost 400 and serves county-wide functions such as running the jail, providing security for the courts and serving warrants, subpoenas and court orders. There are standalone dispatch centers in Fairfield, Middletown, Monroe, Trenton and West Chester Twp., but the sheriff’s dispatchers answer emergency calls for the rest of the county.

Sheriff’s department Chief Tony Dwyer said the department provides direct police protection for about 100,000 or more residents in smaller jurisdictions and provides support in places that have their own police force, especially when special units like SWAT, the undercover narcotics task force and technical rescue are needed.

The per-capita costs for police services countywide range from a high of $355 in Monroe to a low of $73 in Liberty Twp., where the trustees contract with the Butler County Sheriff’s Department. Ross Twp. has the lowest budget at $799,160, and West Chester Twp. the largest at $17.9 million.

The Journal-News gathered data from 11 jurisdictions with police departments.

Liberty Twp. Trustee Tom Farrell said the township’s budget is bare bones because it doesn’t have added expenses for things provided by the $3 million contract with the sheriff’s office, such as a helicopter and SWAT team.

“We have only the contracted price, other police departments obviously have lot of other resources out there at their disposal that they are paying for,” he said. “By contracting we don’t pay for those resources because the county does.”

West Chester has the biggest police budget after the sheriff’s office at $17.9 million. Last year,the budget was $16.2 million, but the department only spent about $14 million, according to Police Chief Joel Herzog. The township had the second-highest call volume in the county at 46,057.

“Our budget obviously is higher,” he said. “But it’s the type of service we’re providing and what the residents expect from us. They’re the ones that pass the levies and then demand the best.”

He said the township’s many businesses also must be taken into account.

“We also have well over 3,500 businesses we serve that also pay into that levy,” he said. “If you’re just using population, you’re not taking into account the 50,000 workers that are coming into West Chester daily we are also serving above and beyond our population.”

West Chester also runs its own dispatch operation, has a SWAT team and provides residents and businesses a host of programs like self defense, college safe classes and crime prevention and assessments for businesses and more, Herzog said.

Monroe has the highest cost per-resident at $355, with about 13,500 people paying for a $4.8 million budget. Police Chief Bob Buchanan said officials “budget for the worst-case scenarios,” and the department frequently spends less than its budgeted amount. Last year, Monroe had 15,840 calls for service.

Monroe has the added impact of the Cincinnati Premium Outlets mall, and like West Chester, it seesa large influx of workers the department needs to protect at all hours because several of their industrial areas run three shifts.

Middletown has a $12.5 million budget, received 27,891 calls for service last year and costs residents about $257 per year. The county’s second-largest city has the most unique circumstance in that it runs its own jail.

“The jail has a $1.3 million budget,” Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw said. “There is a definite impact, but it does save us from having to hire transport officers to take to the county. But the 1.3 million is a huge impact on our budget each year.”

Fairfield Police Chief Steve Maynard said body cameras are an expense not many jurisdictions have and the estimated $150,000 cost in his $12 million budget could go up in the wake of a new law that requires police to redact most footage inside residences.

“A lot of things that were once public record are no longer public record,” Maynard said. “So we’re going to have to increase the amount of time we spend redacting videos that we release to the public records requests. Now unless you have the permission of a resident, anything that happens in a private residence is no longer public record.”

He said he may have to hire additional staff if the redacting becomes too time consuming.

Hamilton had the highest call volume at 96,560 last year. The city made a budget decision in 2013 to turn dispatching duties over to the sheriff’s office. The city saved about $500,000 the first year and “a few million” over the years, according to Executive Director of Public Safety Scott Scrimizzi.

“Dispatch centers are always evolving, and it’s a difficult assignment. We have always had operational hurdles, both when we ran our own center and when the sheriff’s office took over,” he said. “I believe that we have been able to work well with the sheriff’s office in addressing those issues when they arise.”

Hamilton residents pay about $241 per year for police protection.