MADISON — The town has been reimbursed $79,500 after the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office came in about 16 percent under budget in its first year running a Madison division.

Town Manager Tim Curtis said the savings stem from a turnover of officers as well as other items the sheriff’s office was able to save money on but had originally budgeted at higher amounts.

The reimbursement, which came to the town last week, also represents a total savings of about $150,000 for policing services compared to the cost of the town running its own Madison Police Department, as it did up until 2015.

“That’s a significant part of the plan — to continue to provide policing services but do it at a lower cost to the taxpayer, especially in light of our economic situation,” Curtis said, referring to the recent closure of Madison Paper Industries, the town’s largest taxpayer and previously one of its largest employers.

There are a variety of reasons for the savings, including that the Madison division of the sheriff’s office has an entirely new police force from the Madison Police Department. When voters opted to consolidate the two in the summer of 2015, all Madison officers became employees of the sheriff’s office. However, four of the five retired or left for other jobs and one officer did not make it through a probationary period as a sheriff’s office employee.

In addition to the staff turnover, Curtis said there were also “a lot of procedures the sheriff’s office already had in place that resulted in some savings for the town.”

Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster said the first Madison division budget was based on previous Madison Police Department budgets, and the sheriff’s office is now starting to compile a budget history for the division.

“I have to commend the town manager for working with me to look closely at the previous budgets,” Lancaster said. “I think the most important part is that the town is not only saving money, but able to still receive good policing services.”

Of the $79,500 being reimbursed, $27,500 will go toward training costs for new officers — something the town pays for on its own — and the remaining $52,000 will go into the town’s general fund.

The Madison division of the sheriff’s office is currently budgeted at $485,000 for the 2016-2017 fiscal year ending June 30, and Curtis said he wasn’t sure whether that number will also drop. The 2016-2017 budget was $481,000.

In addition to the cost savings, the Madison division of the sheriff’s office also increased the rate at which crimes are solved by more than 40 percent in its first five months of operations last year.

“I certainly think we will take this savings into consideration as we start working on a new budget,” Curtis said. “It’s too early to put a number on it, but I think it’s a good sign.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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