NEWTON FALLS - The village police force will be down to five officers from about 16 based on 2014 budget appropriations approved at Monday night's council meeting.
The projected layoffs would be to nine part-time and one full-time officer, if nothing is rearranged in the meantime.
The reduction could take patrols down to one officer per each eight- to 12-hour shift, Patrolwoman Sheri Bailey said. The police were informed in a closed meeting sometime in the last two weeks.
Bailey has been an officer with the department for the past seven years, five of which have been spent as a resource officer in three of the village's schools.
"That's 1,500 little faces I may have to say goodbye to," she said.
Bailey said she an another officer recently completed ALICE training - Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate - for an active shooter situation at the schools and that they were supposed to have a full drill in the new year. Now she said the training has gone to waste.
2013 - $939,702.56
2014 - $631,257.55
Source: Newton Falls Village Council
"It's very hard for me, looking at all of the kids and not being able to explain why their officer won't be there," she said.
During the Monday meeting, council entered executive session to discuss union negotiations. Law Director Joe Fritz later commented that because of a decrease in the village's population, they can walk away from all collective bargaining agreements with the union contract expiring at the end of the year.
This provides a possible advantage for officers who are facing the impending cuts. With the expiration, Village Manager Jack Haney said the department may be able to shuffle around some of the part-time positions without the need for all the layoffs since paying union benefits won't be a factor.
"It doesn't necessarily lay off several officers. There are other options there are other things down the road we are going to try working with to keep people employed," Mayor Lyle Waddell said.
Nevertheless, the police department fund was reduced by about $308,500 in the 2014 budget. About 80 percent of police expenses are personnel costs.
The possibility of layoffs has been on the horizon for quite sometime, especially with the failure of two police levies in the last two years. Most recently, a 0.35 percent income tax increase that would have brought in $240,000 annually was turned down by voters in November.
"We've had two issues, both defeated 2-to-1. I don't know what else there is to do," Finance Director Tracy Reimbold said.
Only Councilman Richard Zamecnik addressed the cuts during his closing statements, saying there was nothing the council could do to avoid them.
Officers and their family responded with anger at the lack of address on the issue and met downstairs in the Administration Building with Chief Gene Fixler after the council meeting.
"It's more positive than it sounded upstairs. I have a budget to work with and I am going to work within it," Fixler said.
He was not willing to comment on whether or not the layoffs would be definite, but acknowledged that cuts in the budget are part of the job that chief's across the state must face.
"I want to get with my officers and need to answer a lot of questions for them right now, but we're going to move forward here in Newton Falls," he said. "I think things will do well, they're not going to be perfect but they're going to do well."