by Lisa Tome
As officials in the Town of Elkton are toiling away on their annual budget, decisions need to be made.
Commissioner Mary Jo Jablonski said that the process for doing the budget has been different this year.
"For the first time in years, every department head was asked what they need. Rob (Mayor Alt) said 'what can we do to help?'," said Jablonski.
Alt said that work on the $11.8 million budget is well underway. "The Town of Elkton will have a $4.5 million surplus over last year," said Alt.
He explained that a large portion of that money is as a result of unfilled positions. "We haven't been at full staff in three years," he said.
The Elkton Police Department is at a deficit of about eight positions. "It's very hard to get qualified applicants. And we don't expect to be fully staffed until the end of 2016," said Alt. He said the department is working to hire already trained, qualified applicants who will likely come from other departments. There are also unfilled positions in the public works department. The surplus can also be attributed to a slight increase in real estate values.
Since there will be extra money, the mayor was asked what he will do with it.
"There could be a couple positions the mayor and commissioners could take. We could give it back to the residents with a decrease in taxes," he said. "But that would not be the right thing to do, I don't think."
Instead, the mayor said the town should invest it by buying new and much needed equipment. "I want to use it in a way that will better serve the community," he said.
He said the board is looking at purchasing five to six pieces of equipment for public works. He said that equipment would make things in the town run better. He said a plan for buying equipment is being reviewed.
More than likely, some of that money will also go to purchasing police cruisers. "We still have police cars from 2001 and 2002. Our goal is to have a fleet of police cars and hold onto them for no longer than eight or nine years. We should also do that with the public works vehicles - the snow plows and the mowers. That way we get better resale value. We run it until we can't get parts for it anymore. We want to be more efficient, absolutely," added Alt.
He said while the budget process is always arduous, the goal with the budget is simple.
"We want to make things better for the residents of the town," said Alt.