December 8, 2021

Cortland County considers lease option on sheriff’s patrol cars

Taking a look at leasing

Shenandoah Briere/staff reporter

Two Cortland County Sheriff’s Department patrol vehicles outside the county public safety building Monday afternoon. Sheriff Mark Helms presented legislators with the options of buying or leasing patrol cars. However, some legislators are wondering which option is the more fiscally responsible one to go with.

Cortland County will consider leasing rather than buying vehicles for its sheriff’s department after an analysis suggests that leasing is cheaper than buying.

“I would’ve said years ago don’t lease, but it’s something that’s changed quite a bit,” said Cortland County Sheriff Mark Helms, noting the sheriff’s departments in Madison, Seneca and Cayuga counties all lease vehicles.

The county Legislature’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee briefly discussed the matter last week, and committee chair Michael Barylski (D-Cortlandville) said that conversation will continue this month.

“It very well might come up,” Barylski said Monday. “I don’t understand perfectly which one is lesser than the other.”

Buying five patrol vehicles would cost about $212,300, Helms said. They would be used for active patrol for about two years, averaging 90,000 to 100,000 miles. Then the vehicles are typically reassigned to sergeants to use for a year before they are auctioned off. The vehicles, typically with about 150,000 miles, don’t bring much money.

That’s about $14,513 per vehicle, per year, plus maintenance.

However, Helms said, he could lease 10 cars for $121,860 a year for a two- or fouryear lease. That’s just $12,186 per vehicle, per year, plus routine maintenance.

Both options include $17,100 that would go toward equipment, decaling and costs to put those items in and on the car for new vehicles, if needed.

“We always try to save where we can,” Helms said.

Helms said officers could take the leased vehicles home, so they could respond from their homes if needed. People would see them in the neighborhood, too, he added, where their presence could deter crime and slow traffic.

Mileage would remain lower on the leased cars, he said, requiring less maintenance and greater likelihood a warranty would cover the cost.

When the leased cars are returned, the company would sell the car and proceeds could be put toward the next contract term. Delivery would also be faster, he said, noting he’s still waiting for cars he ordered last year.

“But it’s just an option,” Helms said.

Barylski said he hoped to continue the conversation before Legislature Chairman Kevin Whitney releases a tentative 2020 budget Oct. 7, but the committee doesn’t meet again until Oct. 15.

Helms said he discussed the idea with Whitney and a county auditor.

“I get that the auditor — at least what I took from it — they want to see the bills spread out rather than up front,” Helms said.

“Whichever is more financially feasible is where my vote is going to go,” said Legislator Paul Heider (R-Cuyler, Solon, Truxton), vice chairman of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee and a retired New York City police officer.

“It really don’t matter to me — buy them or lease them — you tell me which you like and I’m OK with that because what you figure is going to be the best for us,” Helms told legislators.