December 05, 2012 - The Oakland County Sheriff Department's new three-year contract is a winner for both taxpayers and law enforcement.
Approved by the Orion Township Board of Trustees on Nov 19, the new contract calls for a small 1.67 percent increase each of the next three years. By 2015, cost for the sheriff services will be about $3.3 million.
This contract pays for 25 Sheriff's department employees in Orion Township. Included in the cost of putting Sheriff's deputies on the street are such items as the cars, computers, uniforms, training, healthcare, and pension plan. Salary costs account for approximately half of the contracted expenditure.
Oakland County is the largest contracting police department in the state of Michigan, and Orion was the first township in the state to contract with the Sherriff's department, launching the partnership back in 1952.
With more than 300 deputies in 16 communities—three cities, two villages and 11 townships— the deputies protect about 345,000 people throughout Oakland County.
Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe said the savings to the township could be attributed to a number of causes.
One cause is the sheriff department's decision to move to a defined contribution retirement plan back in the early 1990s. Another reason for the small level of increase in the sheriff's contract is the decision reached through collective bargaining to pay for more of their own insurance premiums.
Not only do taxpayers save by not funding their sheriff's health insurance premiums, McCabe said the agreement is "also beneficial to the deputies . . . because it gives them certainty in employment too."
In addition to the cost containment measures, savings are reached by the elimination of structural redundancy.
"Instead of having 16 different police departments, you have one. You don't have 16 police chiefs. You have one —Mike Bouchard, the Sheriff. You don't have 16 sets of command staff. You have one. You don't have 16 record bureaus. You have one. You don't have 16 dispatch centers. You have one. You don't have 16 property rooms. You have one. You don't have 16 lock-ups. You have one jail, the Oakland County jail. As a result of all that, the communities that contract with the sheriff's office all benefit from the sharing which then reduces everybody's costs."
Beyond eliminating redundancy, the 18th largest Sheriff's Department in the United States has the ability to pool its purchases to greater leverage. As anyone familiar with warehouse clubs knows, purchasing in bulk results in lower costs. This large purchasing leverage is passed onto local municipalities like Orion Township.
As McCabe explained; "Many municipalities use the Oakland County contract to buy their patrol cars, to buy their computers—to buy anything and everything because the county gets a better price than a smaller agency does on its own."
This buying power yields tremendous savings for the taxpayers. For example, fuel purchases for an entity that drove over 6 million miles last year would be a lot higher, but for the bulk purchasing power and tax abatements awarded to the sheriff's department.
Instead of the $3.60 a gallon and higher, the Sherriff's fleet obtains their gasoline for less than $3 per gallon.
As a result, the Oakland County Sherriff's department is the model for the rest of the state.
Their recently approved contract increase of 1.67 is a product of tough-minded negotiations and collective sacrifice, McCabe said.