Thursday, February 9, 2023

Department coping with cuts

September 7, 2001

Next to family photos and decorations, MSU police Sgt. Florene McGlothian-Taylor’s desk is piled with files and documents waiting to be read.

McGlothian-Taylor and other officers at the Department of Police and Public Safety have been adjusting to an increased work load after a year of struggling budgets that, among other things, left students with an 8.9 percent tuition increase.

On top of her duties as a coordinator for special events, McGlothian-Taylor now serves as the public information officer. And Detective Tony Willis, the previous information officer, is back to patrolling campus roads.

“It’s a lot more work,” McGlothian-Taylor said. “Taking on a new position and taking on responsibilities for that certainly have been exciting in one sense, and at times overwhelming. I think people are beginning to find out that it is (a tough budget year).”

University officials must cut $5.5 million from the 2001-02 budget, which was approved last month. Each department - from academics to enforcement - has been asked to cut spending by 1 percent.

“We had to have the 1.5 percent on top of the tuition increase to be able to balance the budget,” said Fred Poston, vice president for finance and operations. “This isn’t a new thing. Some of it just has to be passed on this year.”

MSU police Chief Bruce Benson said the department estimated it would have to cut 3 percent from the budget - the equivalent of three sworn positions.

Benson said administrators found enough funding to keep two of the officers for the next year. The other position went unfilled after the officer left the department for another agency.

“If we had lost all three, it would have hampered our effectiveness for this year,” Benson said. “Anytime we have an employee leave we’ll have to re-evaluate that position. More outreach will have to go in favor of the more true emergency service.”

But the department might not fare so well in the future, Benson said. The money to support the staff is only temporary, meaning the department could lose five or six officers next year.

With a proportion of less than one officer for every 1,000 people on campus, Benson said MSU is already below state and national averages.

The cost for events requiring police supervision will not change this year, but the price might go up as demand for the officers increases at the 350 to 400 events held each year.

“We’ve got to go to the university to try to continue funds,” Benson said. “The only other option is you lose them.”

MSU Assistant police Chief Jim Dunlap said the department has survived in the past with grant money, bulk purchases and shifts in car purchasing procedures. Consolidation of dispatch services with area forces saves the department about $300,000 a year.

“We don’t have any room left to cut supplies and services,” he said.

Benson said the department will continue to search for ways to cut costs without cutting manpower - a daunting task, he said, when you’re still trying to cut crime on campus.

“That’s got to be a constant way of life now,” he said. “It’s an entirely different world when you know you’re going to start with a cut.”

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