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Atlas Township inks two-year sheriff's contract

November 23, 2011 - Atlas Twp.-The township board of trustees voted 5-0 on Monday night to accept a two-year contract with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office.

The new sheriff's contract, which will cost taxpayers $538,653 for 12 months, will include four deputies, same as in prior years, along with funding for a part-time detective-sergeant split between Fenton and Atlas townships. The residents of Vienna Township, who also have a contract with the sheriff's office for police coverage, is currently charged for the service.

Last year the one-year contract cost $553,376.

"I like the numbers," said Tere Onica, township clerk. "That's a savings of 2.6 percent per year. And 5.2 percent (savings) over the next two years. This contract is excellent for us to adopt—we need to move on it."

The new contract starts Jan. 1, 2012.

Onica said the drop in cost to township taxpayers is due to several factors, including a cut in deputy retirement pay by 16.5 percent, a 100 percent cut in overtime holiday pay and a decline in salaries by 4.6 percent.

"Genesee County cut $3.1 million this year from their budget and had many, many lay-offs," Onica said. "I urged the (Atlas Township) board of trustees to sign the contract before the county scalps us. There's also a good chance we may see another reduction in the contract as deputies may be paying more of their health benefits."

Trustee Paul Amman, a former township supervisor, supported the two-year contract.

"In the 12 years I've worked (in township government) with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, I'm not aware of a complaint about response times. I've had two complaints about service and one of those was unfounded. Let's sign this contract before the county wakes up and sees we have too good of a deal."

The township established a contract with the GCSO about 12 years ago, funded by 1 mill from area property owners. Funding for the deputies was increased in 2005 by a special assessment of $50 for every improved lot and $25 for unimproved lots, which expired in 2010. However, in August 2010, by a 4-1 vote, the township board approved a special assessment of $50 for improved parcels and $25 for unimproved parcels until November of 2012.

Genesee County Undersheriff Chris Swanson said the two-year contract is now the trend.

"Vienna Township has a two-year contract and it's just good business," he said. "We're not going back and redoing the contract every year. We've been with Atlas Township since the mid 1990s and if they want out anytime there's a 60-day out clause."

Swanson said expect more savings in January and June.

"Next year all county employees will be paying 20 percent of their health insurance," he said. "That's a huge savings for the township. Coupled with some staffing changes, our contract is less this year."

Despite the decrease in costs, the township is still about $100,000 short per year necessary for the contract. The 1 mill had generated $330,000, while the special assessment garners $162,679 per year. It is estimated the 1 mill will now only produce about $280,000 next year due to sagging property values.

"In August 2012 the township will have a ballot proposal regarding police millage," added Onica.

"Right now we're drawing down the fund balance. We just can't keep doing that."

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