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Stretching Your Budget In a Recession

Almost every agency is feeling the pinch of hard times, but there are ways to reduce the pain.

August 07, 2012  |  by Wendy Dutenhoeffer


Times are tough all over. Equipment suppliers are not exempt. Most are experiencing decreased sales because many of their most reliable customers are not in a financial position to buy. In the big-picture scheme of business there can be no doubt that some profit margin is better than no profit margin. Talk to vendors, explain your situation, and see if they are willing to negotiate a lower price. They may just take you up on it.


If the out-right purchase of equipment is out of the question, consider leasing. Be sure to check your agency's policy on leasing first, but this can be a great option. The equipment is delivered and used immediately, while the agency pays an annual or monthly payment.

Sometimes you can even turn in used equipment and get a credit toward the lease of a newer model. Check out the terms carefully and make sure you know of any penalties for early return or damage.

Buy Used

Check with other organizations and see if they have good equipment that they no longer need. You can buy good used equipment at a fraction of the cost of new stuff. Also check out the government surplus lists.

Become More Efficient

Look at ways to use your precious resources more efficiently and effectively. Can you do more with less? Consider Canyon County, Idaho. The county agencies have turned green and as a result they have put more of the other green stuff back in their budget.

Canyon County as a whole is looking at fleet cost savings through the purchase of hybrid vehicles and up-fitting patrol vehicles to run on E85. "By initiating projects that have resulted in immediate cost savings, reduced emissions, independence of foreign fuels, and conserved energy usage in our own environment, we are successfully moving forward to a long-term solution," says Canyon County fleet manager Mark Tollman.

"We are systematically reducing our older vehicle issues by implementing hybrid fuel technologies, and will soon be a green fleet countywide in the foreseeable future," he adds.

Moreover, Canyon County implemented a tire program where nitrogen is used in tires. Tollman says this change increases safety, mileage, and the life of the tires, while decreasing maintenance or replacement of tire sensors.

If changing your fleet's infrastructure won't work, think about other ways to conserve fuel and vehicle costs. Reducing idling time equals savings in fuel and vehicle longevity. And have your fleet department make sure that tires have the proper pressure at all times.

Your Trash Could be Somebody's Treasure

Equipment that is no longer working for your organization may be a considered the magic pumpkin coach by another. Determine what "outgrown" but viable and properly operating equipment can be sold. Then find a buyer. This is a win-win; your revenues increase and the buyer's expenses decrease.

Take it to the Streets

Let the public you protect know that you are trying to raise money to provide new services or purchase new equipment. They may step up to help. Lasso this support into a grassroots fundraising effort where the customer takes charge. Donations will quickly fill the coffers from local businesses and community groups and youth organizations may hold bake sales and car washes for your benefit.

And don't let the momentum stop at a one-time saturation effort. Harness that volunteer energy and community support to start up a foundation that will raise additional funds year round. Offer a lunch with the chief of police in exchange for a donation of a certain level. Hold a golf tournament. Let the volunteers' creativity flow, and you might be surprised at the dough they harvest.

Check your Prices

If your agency charges for providing security services, check the numbers and make sure that the charges to the customers cover the cost outlay. Make sure the cost of the deputies or officers, including variable and fixed benefits, are added into the equation. Don't forget about incorporating overtime, fuel, vehicle, equipment, materials, and supplies into the rate.

Review Fees

Often overlooked are fees charged for reports, civil process and the like. A market survey of surrounding agencies can tell you if you are right in line or woefully underpriced. Sometimes fee increases are restricted by local law so don't forget to check for increase limitations.

Local Grants

Look beyond your current grant sources. Often overlooked are local foundations that may be more than willing to fund a grant for an investment of policing equipment used to keep their community members safe.

Talk it Up

While attending seminars or classes, the participants often learn more from networking and talking to others. Build relationships with your peers in the law enforcement community. Ask them what has worked for them. Why reinvent the wheel when somebody has one that works perfectly?

Wendy Dutenhoeffer is a financial officer with the Bonneville County (Idaho) Sheriff's Office. She has 22 years of experience in finance.


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