Onondaga County wants to change Clay Police deal

The 2008 merger of the Clay Police Department with the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department earned rave reviews for saving Town of Clay taxpayers money but on Wednesday night a behind the scenes dispute over paying for the merger was made public for the first time.

At a budget presentation before the Onondaga County Legislature, Sheriff Kevin Walsh and his staff questioned why the County Executive TMs proposed budget cuts Clay's payment from 9.2% of salary costs to 5%. Chief John Balloni from the sheriff's department said the proposal would put county taxpayers on the hook for $40,000 in administrative costs.

"We don't understand that. It's literally, we believe subsidizing consolidation in the interest of consolidation, said Balloni.

Clay and the Sheriff's Department signed a five year contract with 9.2% of salaries as Clay's share. James Rowley, the county's chief fiscal officer and was also the Clay town supervisor when this deal was struck, says the cost is too much and could scare off other towns considering consolidation.

"We don't think that's fair, said Rowley. We're trying to promote consolidation not dissuade consolidation. We think 5% is a more reasonable number in the budget."

The argument centers on how much consolidation actually costs. Rowley says Clay is being overcharged and the Sheriff says the county is trying to break a good contract.

"The numbers were agreed to, they were vetted by the comptroller at the time, said Balloni We believe the numbers are good - we see no reason for this change."

"My contention is, he's wrong, said Rowley. That 9.2% administration fee - we think is excessive."

Both sides expect plenty of negotiation before a final budget comes up for a vote at the County Legislature.