That calzone you just ordered from The Cellar just got a little more expensive. Blacksburg Town Council just unanimously approved a $72 million budget for 2008-2009. The budget included a one percent increase in the meals tax, and utility bills will increase by just under $5.
I wrote about this last month, and surmised that a one percent increase in the meals tax would pay the salaries of as many as ten new police officers. The new budget will increase the police force by four officers, one dispatcher, and a downtown cleaning crew. Great! But look at the disparity between similar VA communities - Charlottesville and Harrisonburg.
| Officers || Jurisdiction |
| 07-08 Budget || 2007 Calls For Service |
|Blacksburg || 39,284 || 62 || 19.5 Square Miles || $6.3 million || 21,568
|Charlottesville || 40,315 || 117 || 10.4 Square Miles || $12.7 million || 49,689 |
|Harrisonburg || 40,885 || 87 || 17 Square Miles || $7.6 million || 34,009
At first glance, you see that Blacksburg has the smallest population, the smallest number of officers, the smallest budget and the smallest number of calls. Great. It's an average of 350 calls a year, per officer. One of my concerns is the size of the Town, however - a larger Town footprint means it takes longer for an officer to get to a call. More officers means you can have more cars on the road, and reduce the response time per call. Chief Crannis says that Blacksburg has been efficient with what they've had, and I'd agree with that, but I'd argue that we could be even more efficient. WIth almost identical populations and comparable jurisdictions, why does the budget lag so far behind? With an increased budget, maybe our cops could actually have a laptop IN the car, so they can get real-time data from the car?
Just a thought. I'm pleased with our community here, and our high quality of life. I want to see that continue, and I wonder what improvements we could make to ensure we continue to enjoy this special place for years to come.
* Sources - 2006 U.S. Census population estimates, Blacksburg Police Department, Charlottesville Police Department, Harrisonburg Police Department, The Roanoke Times
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