There is a town board meeting tonight at 6:30pm – the pre-meeting starts at 5:30pm. You can view the agenda or download the full agenda packet here. You can watch a live stream of tonight’s meeting at the town’s Ustream page here. I can’t cover every agenda item so I always encourage residents to review these agendas and discuss any items of interest with the mayor or a board member because even a single motivated resident can make a difference on how the votes turn out on some of these.
Some thoughts below on one agenda item in particular – the vote on whether to spend $177,835 to purchase 11 new police vehicles. Later this week I’ll be reposting my very popular series of columns about Small Business Saturday and the buy local movement – you might remember these columns as the ones that resulted in my services no longer being needed at the Herald Weekly. And next Monday I’ll share some thoughts on a former elected official in Huntersville who has been paid at least $92,900 by the town since leaving office.
– Item C: The board will consider whether to approve a budget amendment allocating $177,835 from the general fund balance to the Police Department’s budget to purchase 11 police vehicles.
According to the town’s financial director, as of Nov. 6, 2017 the balance of unspent DOJ/Treasury equitable sharing funds available to Huntersville PD was approx. $395,261. And this is up from the total unspent funds of $347,807.19 just earlier this year in March. The last time HPD spent equitable sharing funds according to the equitable sharing certifications filed with the federal government was in FY 13/14 when approx. $414,704 was used for overtime, communications/computers (the bulk of the spending that year – $399,123.38 for radios) and weapons/protective gear.
According to the Justice Department’s Guide to Equitable Sharing for State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies, law enforcement equipment, including vehicles, is a permissible use of equitable sharing funds. You can read the Guide here – page 16 outlines the permissible uses. This same permissible use is outlined on the equitable sharing certification form. I have attached the most recently filed form for reference.
If you’re unfamiliar with equitable sharing and civil asset forfeiture and why HPD has almost $400K available to spend in addition to the $11.5 million provided by taxpayers in the FY 17/18 budget, you can learn more by reading the Institute for Justice’s Policing for Profit report here.
Why should general fund monies be used to purchase these vehicles when HPD appears to have more than enough in equitable sharing funds to cover the costs? The $177,835 being requested by HPD could go to satisfy many other needs in the town since it is money from the general fund. The equitable sharing funds available to HPD, however, are restricted and can only be used by HPD for law enforcement purposes.
Hopefully those board members willing to question requests from HPD will seek more information from Chief Spruill before voting tonight to allocate monies from the general fund.