PERU - Peru will be down one police officer and one firefighter the rest of the year to make up for a budget shortfall after city officials miscalculated how much pay raises, approved last year, would cost the city.
Officers and firefighters received a 1.5-percent increase in their longevity pay as part of across-the-board raises approved for city workers that took effect this year.
Peru Clerk-Treasurer Tish Soldi said the longevity pay, combined with the base salary of an officer or firefighter, determines how much the city pays towards that employee's retirement fund.
The initial combined salaries certified to the state understated how much the longevity pay increased, which led officials to underestimate how much the city would pay towards retirement funds.
Soldi said they realized the mistake, which was approved last year by Peru City Council as part of the budget, after an officer came to ask about retirement policies.
She said city officials then moved to correctly calculate how much the city would owe towards the retirement plans. The correct calculation has put the city over budget by $139,700.
“It was an oversight that was missed by everyone," Soldi said. "It’s one of those things where you don’t know what you don’t know until you know it."
To make up for the shortfall, the city has now determined to not fill one open position within the police and fire departments after meeting and discussing options with the local police and fire unions.
“Nobody is losing a job," Soldi said. "We’re just not filling open positions.”
Not filling the positions will bring the total number of officers down to 29 and the total number of firefighters to 28. Soldi said losing an officer and firefighter does not put public safety at risk.
“We’re not understaffed," she said. "People are not going to notice a difference on how many people they see patrolling or responding. It’s not a public safety issue.”
The Miami County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 72 said in a statement the situation is not ideal, but "working together, we have determined that this is the best way to move forward while looking for ways to fund the position in 2020."
The lodge also said it was "pleased to have received the long overdue pay increase that makes the Peru Police Department competitive with departments in surrounding communities, as well as within Miami County."
Soldi said city officials are now set to review city finances leading into next year's budget in an attempt to find ways to reinstate the two positions.
“All we’re doing is not filing those positions until we’ve had a little bit of time to see the exact effect on the budget and then correct it as needed," she said.
The FOP Local 72 said it thanked the Soldi, Peru Mayor Gabe Greer and city council members for "making public safety officers a priority for local government, and we look forward to our continued partnership serving the citizens of Peru."