PD Merger Only Part of Clarendon Hills' Fiscal Plan
Tom Karaba said the potential police consolidation with Hinsdale is "a piece of the financial puzzle" when it comes to keeping expenses below revenue.
Editor's note: The following is the second part of Patch's Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills police-department merger story. The first part ran Tuesday and surveyed Hinsdale leaders. For part one, click here.
There are two fewer officers at the Clarendon Hills Police Department now than there was two years ago, according to Clarendon Hills village manager Randy Recklaus. He said officer training has been scaled back and the department is exceeding its overtime budget
“We’re running short already,” Recklaus said when asked why the village is pursuing total police consolidation with Hinsdale. “We don’t think we can necessarily sustain that.”
Like the Village of Hinsdale, the Village of Clarendon Hills is approaching a potential police-department merger with an eye toward the future and with the fiscal health of the village in mind. Karaba said more needs to be done by a village that has rising expenses and stagnant revenue.
“It’s just one piece of the financial puzzle,” Karaba said of the merger. “Even with a successful police consolidation, increased revenues are in all likelihood going to be necessary in order to keep up with escalating costs.”
Karaba said another piece of the puzzle is the village’s attainment of home rule so certain taxes can be created or increased. Even another piece is revenue from a new Infiniti dealership on Ogden Avenue, as well as returns from the village's entire Ogden Avenue TIF district.
Karaba said, “Consolidation of the police departments will be helpful, but not a solution by itself.”
Clarendon Hills has explored all sorts of shared police services that could provide small cuts to department expenses, according to Recklaus, but the only way to get impactful savings is a full merge.
“Most of your costs on the police side are from its patrol function,” Recklaus said. “They really need to operate as a single unit.”
Acting Clarendon Hills Police Chief Ted Jenkins said he trusts the village to what’s best for the people of Clarendon Hills and for his department. Officials from both Clarendon Hills and Hinsdale say no layoffs will come from the plan; a reduced staff will be the product of attrition only.
Jenkins said he thinks officers would benefit from the merger because they would be working for a larger and more financially sound police department.
“I truly believe that if we do successfully create a consolidated police department for less money, it’s a win-win for everybody,” Jenkins said.
The acting chief said establishing a common set of policies and procedures will be a big part of the consolidation effort, which will take 18 to 24 months according to Hinsdale Village President Tom Cauley.
Jenkins has heard of a sheriff’s office taking over the police duties for a town, but never two towns merging services completely. He and Hinsdale Chief Brad Bloom, though, think the two towns do have plenty in common.
“If consolidating two police departments could ever be done, it could be done in Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills,” Jenkins said.
According to Recklaus, because the merge is unprecedented, there is legal work being done to make sure it can, by law, be carried out. The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority is a state agency that will provide research and legal help to Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills.
“We’re not as concerned about what is possible right now,” Recklaus said. “We’re more concerned about what will be needed to make this possible. We’re doing something that wasn’t really contemplated until very recently.”
Policies and legal issues aside, the consolidation will happen, Karaba said. And in future years, the Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills police department merger might mark the setting of a state-wide trend.
“Ultimately you will see school districts consolidated; ultimately you will see villages consolidated,” the village president said. “There’s no doubt in my mind.”