Why did it take forever to agree on a City-County SCMPD
The City and County voted to combine their separate Police
Departments in 2003, which was followed in 2005 by the functional merger of the
separate departments into Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police. The driving
motivations behind the merger:
Since the merger, Part 1 Crime across the SCMPD jurisdiction
has dropped nearly 30%, and the department’s clearance rate – the percentage of
crimes solved – has gone from consistently below the national average to above
the national average each of the past five years. (Note: As of Sept. 19, 2015, Part 1 crime was up 10% YTD compared with same period 2014).
In 2014, the City and County managers began meeting on a
regular basis to create a new SCMPD Intergovernmental Agreement, as was called
for in the original agreement. Through this comprehensive process, an entire
new document was created. SCMPD is a major, $70 million operation with more
than 800 employees. City and County leaders had significant debate on many of
Cost was a major factor. The allocation formula of the
original agreement divided the major functions of SCMPD into cost centers. For
some of those cost centers, such as investigations and administrative functions
such as the Chief’s Office, each side paid according to its population. For the
Patrol cost center, which comprises the major of the overall budget, costs were
divided according to how many patrol beats were assigned to the City vs the
County. Other centers were paid either 100 percent by the City or the County. (Read tons of details about all this HERE)
When you add it up, the City last year was budgeted to pay
67 percent ($43 million) of Police, the County’s Special Service District --
funded solely by unincorporated residents -- was budgeted to pay 25
percent ($15.8 million) of Police, and the County’s M&O – funded by all
residents in Chatham County, including City residents -- was
scheduled to pay the remaining 8 percent ($5.1 million) of the budget.
That means that City of Savannah taxpayers paid $328 per
capita for Police services, while taxpayers living in unincorporated Chatham
County paid $190 per capita for Police services last year.
This heavier burden on City residents was a recognition that
there is a higher demand for Police services in the more urbanized City limits.
During negotiations, City Manager Stephanie Cutter was resistant to major
changes that put a much greater financial burden on City taxpayers, who were
already funding 71 percent of the total Police budget (including City residents' contributions to the County M&O tax), even though they
comprise just 61 percent of the population within the SCMPD jurisdiction.
In May 2015, the City and County managers jointly developed
a framework, later approved by both elected bodies, which provided a detailed
outline for a new agreement, and established a two-year period during which an
independent expert would gather critical data upon which a new cost allocation
formula would be based. Read the agreement HERE.
That framework was used to develop a detailed
intergovernmental agreement, which City Council approved August 20. Read the draft agreement HERE. Chatham
County Commission on September 11 approved a version of the agreement with revisions, which is currently under review by City leaders.