Tough Cuts to Owego Police Department

By Matt Markham

June 29, 2011 Updated Jun 29, 2011 at 6:44 PM EDT

Owego, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Police officers keep order and safety in the places they serve, but when funding is cut to their department, is your safety compromised?

The village of Owego says its police department can still work efficiently despite a sizable cut in support.

"When you start cutting services and money and staff, and so forth, it isn't easy," said village trustee Ann Lockwood.

Among the victims of Owego's village budget is the police department, which receives $70,000 less next year.

"The original intent of the motion was to modify the third shift where there would be some nights it wouldn't be completely covered and other nights it would," said trustee Earl Hartman.

In some cases, Tioga County Sheriffs would handle the village calls.

The cut equals two positions which the village and the department hope to keep through scheduling adjustments.

We spoke with a couple of neighbors in the village who said they were concerned about the long-term impacts of what a budget cut to the police department would mean.

But the trustees say this isn't something set in stone forever, and shouldn't be anything that impacts the safety of village residents.

"The village is getting busier, so it's a concern that we won't have the protection and the coverage we had before," said village resident Mark Machalek.

"This is not a "forever" budget," Lockwood said. "This is a one-year budget. There are changes that can be made throughout the year."

Though residents may not like the idea, some of them understand it.

"I understand that budgets are tight and we don't want our taxes going up," Machalek said.

"The police chief we have, he's been put through the bonds before, and he's came through it, and I have faith he'll come through it again," said trustee Jim Legursky.

There are six full-time patrolmen now and ten part-time officers serving the village.

One way the village hopes to increase revenue is by charging for parking in lots that had been free.

If it gains the money it needs next year, it will restore that funding to the police department.

Trustees did manage to lower the tax rate increase from around 8% to just 1%.