Mahwah February 4, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES IV • Page 3 Municipal alliance concerned about budget cuts by Frank J. McMahon Several supporters of the Mahwah Municipal Alliance attended the last Mahwah Council meeting and voiced their concerns about potential cuts in the township’s 2009 budget. Those cuts would eliminate funding for three police officer positions which provide the instructional support for the township’s DARE Program, the Junior Police Academy, and the Youth Leadership Academy. Prior to the meeting, the alliance had also voiced its concern in an e-mail communication that the budget cuts being considered by Mayor Richard Martel and the township council will eliminate those three police officer positions which also support the Kid Care Identification Program and the Red Ribbon Safety Week. William Laforet, a local businessman and member of the alliance, was one of six residents who voiced their concerns to the council about any cuts in these programs. “I’m concerned about the unintended consequences of removing these police officers,” Laforet said. “If we lose these three officers and proceed with these programs, which is our intent, there will be more (police) overtime,” he warned the council. “I ask you to take another look at this. I want the council to be proactive.” Council President John DaPuzzo responded that the council had just received the proposed budget and the intent is to review the document page by page. However, he explained that state law prohibits the township’s tax levy from rising more than four percent, and with salaries up 3.5 percent, reduced state aid, and a reduction in the revenues the township normally receives due to the poor economy, the budget is only $250 under that cap. “So for anything we put back into the budget, something else needs to be taken out,” DaPuzzo said. He added, however, that just that week one police officer position was added back into the budget. Council Vice President Robert Hermansen added, “No one on the council believes that these programs are not fantastic programs.” He emphasized that the council has a very tight budget, but he added, “There is nothing we won’t do to try to keep these programs.” The e-mail the alliance sent to supporters pointed out that over 6,000 police hours per year could be cut from the township’s budget. That action would force the police department to eliminate its instructional support for these three community programs, which the alliance claims, combined in 2008 to reach roughly 1,000 students. “This is Mahwah’s largest community outreach program and the only effort focused on developing decision-making skills in the face of peer pressure related to drugs, alcohol, and bullying, as well as gang recruitment and cyber safety,” Charles Saldarini, the president of the Mahwah Municipal Alliance, stated in the e-mail. According to Saldarini, only DARE, the Junior Police Academy, and the Youth Leadership Academy create personal bonds between children and police and those bonds help kids see the police as a resource and help the police learn about threats to children. Without these connections, Saldarini claims an important community link would be lost. Saldarini also emphasized in the e-mail that previous budget cuts sacrificed the police department’s student resource officer, and the budget cuts now being considered could reduce police staffing to 1997 levels, when the township’s population was significantly smaller. “A smaller force means fewer opportunities to combat crime and slower emergency response times,” Saldarini stated. He explained that DARE is a critical educational program which is a police-led curriculum for drug and alcohol education in the township’s schools. “For fifth graders DARE is a crucial learning experience before entering middle school and a highlight of the fifth grade experience is the DARE culmination ceremony which draws several hundred attendees,” Saldarini wrote. Saldarini also pointed out that the Junior Police Academy is a highly popular summer program that engages sixth grade children in an intensive two-week program simulating officer training and that a high impact part of the program simulates the dangerous experience of driving under the influence of alcohol. In addition, he stated that the Youth Leadership Academy is a growing program inspired by the success of DARE and the Junior Police Academy which is offered to grade seven students and it continues the leadership and decision-making instruction of the DARE program. Lecture to feature Teddy Roosevelt The Mahwah Public Library, located at 100 Ridge Road in Mahwah, will present “The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt” with Charles F. McSorley on Monday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. Roosevelt was a Rough Rider, New York City Police Commissioner, New York Governor, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, United States Vice President, and the 26th United States President by the age of 42. McSorley’s lecture will combine commentary, slides, and music on the life of one of American’s greatest presidents. This program is free of charge, and no tickets are necessary. All are welcome to attend For additional information, call the library at (201) 529-READ. Serving Cocktails, & Espresso o cin Cappuc State Line Diner - Restaurant 375 State Highway 17 North, Mahwah Open 24 Hours, 7 Days Join Us For Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner The Best Got Better! 201-529-3353 Join Us Fo Breakfast, r Lunch & Dinner Please Join Us In Celebrating Our 33rd Anniversary with any Dinner Purchase, 5pm - 9pm, January 12 - February 8 FREE Balloons & Lollipops for children Complimentary Gift for Adults Free Cheesecake & Free Soup