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Chief proposes $2M in cuts

CLEARWATER — Police Chief Tony Holloway says he can slash more than $2 million from his $37.4 million budget. But, if he does, he'll have to cut about 27 positions and his department will be a bit less "proactive."

That's the gist of what Holloway told the City Council at Monday's work session.

The cuts, Holloway said, will "be painful, but we could make do."

Holloway plans to return to Thursday's City Council meeting to get more feedback.

Five months after taking the helm, Holloway is under pressure to trim his budget as much as possible, especially since the council turned down Sheriff Jim Coats' recent proposal, which promised to save the city $10.8 million.

Among the proposed cuts are one sergeant, seven patrol officers and three detectives. No sworn officers will lose their jobs, he said. All of those positions will be eliminated through attrition.

He also proposed cutting several police service technicians.

As far as the proposed officer cuts, Holloway said, "It would be so minor you wouldn't even notice."

With the detective job cuts, crimes against children and families, economic crimes and misdemeanor investigative reports would likely take 45 to 60 days to complete, instead of the current standard of 30.

And with the service technician cuts, the department wouldn't be able to respond as quickly to some minor accidents, he said.

Vice Mayor John Doran noted that Holloway's proposal conflicted with the direction the council gave Coats when it asked him to put together a proposal.

"I thought one of the significant points of that whole exercise was indicated by our instructions to the sheriff to bring us a proposal that would not decrease the number of patrol officers nor the number of detectives," Doran said. "I thought for some reason that must have been an important consideration."

The majority of Coats' proposed cuts came from reducing police supervisors, communications operators and office workers.

Holloway's proposed cuts also included reductions in equipment, vehicles and services. But he didn't detail Monday how much the city would save.

"We really needed the numbers with this, at least I do anyway," council member Paul Gibson said. "I'd like to hold my comments until after I see what the numbers are."

Holloway e-mailed the council a line-item list Tuesday morning.

According to those figures, some of the bigger cuts come from reducing positions in the patrol and support services divisions.

The department would save nearly $530,000 by eliminating the officer positions and about $550,000 by cutting a police information tech and eight police service technician positions.

Holloway also is reevaluating the department's take-home vehicle program and he's proposing the elimination of a downtown bike substation.

In addition, Holloway plans to issue officers cameras so they can take pictures of minor crime scenes because it typically costs the city about $250 to call the Sheriff's Office to a crime scene.

And he told the council he spoke with Largo police Chief John Carroll about partnering the city's K-9 unit with Largo's.

Mayor Frank Hibbard suggested that Holloway provide more information at Thursday's council meeting about the ramifications of certain cuts, such as reducing patrol officers compared with reducing supervisors.

"I think some of that context would help us understand the decisions that you're having to make, and, ultimately, the decisions we're going to have to make and what service is going to look like because of those decisions."

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Chief proposes $2M in cuts 06/15/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 9:28pm]
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