Budget, Panic, Repeat

"Do not have officers work when you can’t pay them … or we’re going to face the same thing again". This from the solicitor to the commissioners of North Versailles Township, a Mon Valley community, on the problems that are facing the township and its police department.

Rewind to the beginning of the year: according to newspaper reports, the town had such financial difficulty that it could not pay its employees for a week, including 18 police officers. An audit of the town’s financial practices found that the "internal control environment was virtually nonexistent, lacked a sense of accountability and responsibility and was ineffectively monitored by the governing body".

Here’s what has happened as a result of the mismanagement: police officers went to court and won a $33k settlement for back pay. And since the town’s police budget was cut nearly 20 percent from $1.2 million to $980k for this year but the commissioners did not mandate any layoffs, the cycle repeats itself. At the time of the budget cut, the chief of police noted "are we going to go over budget this year? Absolutely. … And then next year, I don’t know what’s going to happen".

Thanks to some money from the Federal government and a resignation of one officer and lower spending on other items things are less bleak than they could be. North Versailles even gets a payment from neighboring Wilmerding for patrolling that community. It may not be long before North Versailles is looking for a town to do the same for it.