By Jim Hagerty
SOUTH BELOIT — The City of South Beloit has voted not to outsource police services to the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department.
Talks had been ongoing for several months due to rising costs of police pensions in the city. According to reports, South Beloit funded pensions in the amount of $79,960 in 2014. A year later, that figure grew to $92,759. Illinois law requires the pension be 90 percent funded by 2040. But, because South Beloit has seen a 50-percent decrease in sales tax revenue in the last nine years, officials sought ways to make up the difference.
South Beloit Mayor Ted Rehl told reporters earlier this month that an outsourcing deal would not be solid enough to right the ship.
“There are too many variables,” Rehl said.
The biggest variable was how to repackage a consolidated compensation package involving two negotiating bodies within the same police union, something the mayor said would not improve the city’s outlay.
“The deputies make a considerable amount more than our officers and (the proposal) just didn’t meld,” Rehl told The Times Tuesday. “We did our due diligence, and now we’ll look for other ways to better fund our department. We thank the sheriff for all the attention he gave this plan.”
An outsourcing contract between a neighboring municipality and the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department is not a new concept. The sheriff’s office has served the Village of Machesney Park since 1981. For about $3.5 million, the county provides the village with twenty uniformed patrol officers, three detectives and two school resource officers.
The metro policing system has also been discussed in Rockford, which would involve a merger of city and county agencies, on which leaders from respective departments currently disagree. By consolidating small departments, proponents say the county would be better utilize resources to fight crime. But, because Sheriff Gary Caruana has supported the idea and Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea has not, talks have not progressed.
Under the proposed agreement in South Beloit, officers would have kept their jobs and been sworn in as county deputies.
The decision not to consolidate the department was good news for Amanda West, an officer who was laid off in January amid looming city budget woes. West was hired back after another officer accepted a position with the Rockford Police Department. The South Beloit City Council also approved the hiring of Russell Schaefer as a part-time officer.
Longtime South Beloit officer David Watson has taken a job as a Rockford officer. The 11-year veteran served a sergeant in South Beloit was sworn in by Rockford brass July 27. A Rockford native, Watson was added to the force as part of O’Shea’s lateral hiring program.
In addition to the chief and deputy chief, there are 11 full-time officers South Beloit Police Department. It costs the city approximately $1.5 million of its $5 million budget to fund the agency. R.