The La Plata Town Council approved a $10.4 million budget and financial plan and fee schedule during its June 8 meeting.
The budget includes a 1.8% cost-of-living adjustment for town employees. The fee schedule includes a 3% increase for water, sewer and trash, a $1 per quarter increase for stormwater management and a 95-cent increase per quarter for recycling.
Also approved was an estimated $7,000 to $8,000 to find out how much it would cost the town to convert its police officers to the state’s retirement plan, known as the Law Enforcement Officers’ Pension System, or LEOPS.
Police Chief Carl Schinner spoke at length during the meeting about the need to convert to LEOPS to retain officers.
“The LEOPS plan is a Chevrolet. It’s not a Cadillac system like other agencies have,” he said.
Mayor Jeannine James noted, “We’ve had six officers leave in the last five years,” including three who went to the private sector and three who retired.
James said that, in regard to retirement, she wants to treat the rest of the city’s employees the same as police officers.
Council unanimously approved the actuarial study. “This means a lot to the men and women of the agency,” Schinner said in response.
Council members noted that $75,000 is included in the new budget for a salary study.
Schinner told the council that a La Plata police officer’s vehicle was involved in a collision with another vehicle on May 17. The driver of the other vehicle “bailed out of a stolen car,” Schinner said.
James asked how the officer is doing. “He’s fine, a little bit of his pride is hurt. He’s a rookie, but he bounced back from it,” Schinner said.
He requested that the town replace the officer’s vehicle, which had 120,000 miles on it and for which the town will receive $12,025 from insurance.
The council reached consensus to replace the police vehicle with a new Ford Explorer Interceptor for $33,887 as part of a state bid. The town plans to buy two more police vehicles in July, for a total of three.
Gun violence measures addressed?
Council went into an executive session closed to the public to discuss measures to address an increase in gun violence in the town.
On Wednesday morning, James said, “We support the police and all the measures they are taking to keep residents and business owners safe.” She added that additional measures may be made public in the coming months.
Also, the council passed an update to the emergency order that was issued March 16, 2020. The order is in accord with recent orders by Gov. Larry Hogan (R), James said. She noted that the town plans to reopen its facilities on June 21, but has a soft opening now at town hall “to get the kinks out.”
James said town council members are “chomping at the bit” to decide how they will spend $8 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds. James said they will hold a meeting about it within the next month.