The Blair Township Board of Supervisors has placed a new proposed 2011 budget on display in the township office, this one showing a reduction in the size of the police department. The new posting came as a surprise Friday to at least two township officials.
The possibility of cutting one patrol officer in the budget has been discussed for several weeks by supervisors Patty Steward, Arlene Bush and chairman Eric Prendergast.
Prendergast and Steward favored the reduced force to help balance the no-tax-hike budget for the new year, but Bush opposed the move.
As of Tuesday however, the fate of the so-called township's fifth police officer was supposedly undecided. According to Township Solicitor Frederick Gieg Jr., the police union representatives and the supervisors were "still negotiating."
Supposedly those negotiations involved revisions to the police contract that could free up money to maintain all five positions in the police department.
On Wednesday the new 2011 budget proposal was placed on a bulletin board in the township's lobby. It lists income of $1,142,248, including petty cash, and expenses of $1,124,746, leaving a balance of $17,502.
Under Public Safety, the budget shows the wages paid to the chief, assistant chief and patrolmen and specifies only two full-time patrol officers.
Township Police Chief Randall Lingenfelter, who was not on duty Friday, expressed surprise at the reduction of one officer. He said the last time he saw the budget it contained three patrol officers.
Bush also expressed surprise, stating she wasn't in the township Wednesday when the budget was posted. She maintains her stance of being "very much against" the layoff of a patrolman.
She said in these times of high crime rates and major drug problems, the township needs five officers.
She said laying off an officer means "we're going backwards."
Bush initially proposed two budgets, one which would raise real estate taxes two mills, the other which would freeze wages. Both of her budgets would retain a full contingent in the police department.
Neither Prendergast nor Steward could be reached for comment Friday.
Bush said that the budget must be on display for 20 days. She said it will come up for adoption at the supervisors' next meeting on Dec. 14.