While consolidation of services and collaboration have been hailed as cost savers for smaller northeast Johnson County communities, they don’t always provide a quick fix for a budget, according to Roeland Park Police Chief Rex Taylor.
During this year’s budget discussions, Taylor provided the city council with per capita comparisons for the cost of police service in surrounding communities. Roeland Park’s cost per person (police budget divided by the population) was $165.14. The next lowest community is Prairie Village (including Mission Hills where it provides service) at $233.58. Costs ranged to a high of $410 in smaller cities.
“The direction I have gotten over the last few years is to cut back,” Taylor, who is retiring this year, told the council. Roeland Park gets “tremendous bang for the buck,” he said. If Roeland Park consolidates with other cities, Taylor added, the other cities won’t lower their law enforcement expectations. Some cities are going to pay more because they want a certain number of officers on the street, he said.
“It’s just not a budget quick fix,” Taylor said this week. Some long-term savings are available, he added, but there is more to it to realize those savings: “(It) needs to be thought through.” There are some start-up costs and small communities might not get as much coverage as they are accustomed to, Taylor said.
However, the scale of a consolidated department allows it to have special units and equipment that small departments rely on the kindness of neighboring cities to provide when needed, Taylor said.
Talk about consolidation of services in Roeland Park dates back months as part of confronting a budget shortfall related to the Walmart relocation and loss of sales tax revenue. Roeland Park also eliminated the assistant police chief position in the 2014 budget.
Besides the Mission Hills arrangement with Prairie Village, Westwood provides services to Mission Woods and Westwood HIlls. Fairway, Roeland and Westwood have collaborated on joint trash bids recently.