Police departments were never intended to generate revenue, but times have changed, says Saugerties Chief Joseph Sinagra. Federal and state grants have dried up and local municipalities are too cash-strapped to make up the difference. He described in a Jan. 5 presentation how, when he took over as chief in April of 2012, he immediately set to work finding new ways to bring money into the department, mainly through grants and by charging for things police had previously provided for free.
In 2012, the department brought in $118,767.87 in revenue, followed by $188,159.93 in 2013 and $196,738.26 in 2014.
One big change was charging organizers of special events for police presence. While some have complained, saying events benefit Saugerties as a whole and police never charged before, Sinagra says such security work falls outside the core mission of the police department to protect the entire community.
“We don’t live in a very rich community,” he said in a separate interview. “There are some people who are comfortable, but others are struggling. It’s not fair they could lose their house because we’re providing security to Zombie Crawl.”
The department received $2,000 from the Sawyer Motors car show, just under $5,000 from the Garlic Festival, $1,500 from the Zombie Crawl, $40,000 for the Hudson Project music festival, $4,825 for providing security at school sporting events and $25,000 for traffic detail work for various events. Those chargebacks include officer salaries, benefits and use of vehicle(s).
The following charges were instituted by Sinagra: $12 for accident reports ($8,000 total received last year); $100 registration fee for tow truck companies in rotation (those that are called when driver is arrested or vehicle is otherwise indisposed); charging insurance companies for photos taken by detectives; and a $25 fee for security alarms that alert police when triggered.
The department receives a $52,000 reimbursement from the school district for time spent by the school resource officer, which also goes into the revenue line. (Though of course that is taxpayer money as well.)
Sinagra also lists $40,000 in grants for the canine division and license plate readers as revenue. This revenue is different from other types mentioned, though, in that the department wouldn’t necessarily have spent the money otherwise.
The chief says the new revenue has helped turn around department finances. In 2012, it overspent its budget by $122,053. In 2013, the adopted budget increased by just under $200,000, or 10.3 percent, but thanks to increased revenue the department ended the year with $54,495 unspent. In 2014, the adopted budget increased by about $110,000 or 5.2 percent and the department returned $153,369.14, meaning the department actually cost the town over $40,000 less than the year before. Sinagra expects revenue to be similar in 2015 to years past.