Camden Town Council is considering a number of avenues to clear up a $388,000 budget deficit.

Camden Mayor Richard Maly and members of the Town Council are considering reducing the time worked by the municipality’s police department as one way to trim a shortfall in the town’s budget.

Discussions on fixing the deficit were aired at a Sept. 20 special council meeting, which although open to the public, did not take comments from the dozen or so residents in attendance. It was a follow up to an Aug. 9 workshop, attended by almost 90 town residents.

At that time, public sentiment seemed to be against any cuts in police protection.

However Maly said trimming eight hours off the department’s schedule is but one of several plans under consideration to zero-out a $388,000 hole in the town’s budget.

For the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the town has projected $2.03 million in revenue and $2.41 million in expenses. Town Manager James Plumley initially included income of $350,000 from the sale of the former town hall and the former police station, but those buildings still have not been sold.

“In addressing the budget deficit, we also considered the possibility of part of the solution being a property tax increase,” Maly said. “Part of the solution could be a business license increase and part could be personnel adjustments.”

Currently, Camden’s 12 sworn officers, which includes Chief of Police William Bryson, provide around the clock coverage. One proposal was to reduce that coverage to 16 hours per day.

Council members, particularly Councilman Jeffrey Lewin, cautioned against any cutbacks in police protection until after completing a study on how other towns the size of Camden handle their law enforcement efforts.

Camden has a population of approximately 2,600 people, according to the most recent estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

“We’re looking at that, but haven’t come up with a firm list of towns,” Maly said.

“We have to look at what other towns have and we have to be very careful about what we can afford,” Plumley said Sept. 27. “These items are just on the table. We have to see if we can afford 24/7 coverage, especially when Troop 3 is right next door.”

Delaware State Police Troop 3 is located just south of Lochmeath Way, within the town limits.

“We either have to reduce our operating expenses or we have to increase our revenue. What was presented was instead of letting taxes do everything or getting rid of half our personnel, lets do some income adjustments and operating expense adjustments.

“If we don’t do this, we could be looking at the possibility of raising taxes by 42% to 45%.”

In addition to Plumley and the 12 sworn law enforcement officers, the town also employs an administrative assistant in the police department, four persons in the town hall, and two full-time and one part-time worker in the public works department.

Maly said the entire budget correction process will be open to public scrutiny.

“It’s our intent to share with the people, not to wait until the late minute,” he said. “We want to give the people of the town an opportunity to comment.”

The August workshop included a number of valuable suggestions, including leaving the police force as is, Maly said. Unfortunately, he doubted that would be possible.

“We either need to make a significant rise in tax rates or business licenses or find a compromise where we can take something from all three.”

Camden’s charter does not require the town have a balanced budget each year, but that’s still a goal for which the council is striving.

“If we don’t solve that problem now, it will be an ongoing problem and we’ll never get to where we want to be,” Maly said. “It’s not fair to the people or to the employees to have to worry about what we’ll have to do to continue services.”

Further discussions in the budget deficit reduction process will take place at the town council’s regularly scheduled meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 4.

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