The Finance Committee has proposed the elimination of a position for which Mayor Daryl Finizio .
The committee asked Police Chief Margaret Ackley on Tuesday to reduce the requested $711,394 budget increase for the police department by $240,000. The committee also accepted an amendment by Councilor John Maynard to include the elimination of the deputy police chief as part of that reduction.
The reduction would put the police department’s budget at $12,040,651 for the 2013 fiscal year. It was budgeted for $11,569,257 for the current fiscal year, but it is estimated that the department will spend $12,074,836.
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Deputy chief’s position
The deputy police chief’s position has been vacant since Jan. 4, following Finizio’s decision to . On Monday, Finizio announced that he has hired Peter Reichard, a 22-year veteran of the New Haven Police Department, as the new deputy chief.
Finizio said he considered the deputy police chief’s position one of four essential positions which were not subject to a put into place in response to a projected three-year $12 million deficit. Ackley said the budget includes a $97,850 salary plus benefits for a deputy chief. Some other positions in the department, including eight uniformed officer positions and a crimes analyst, would remain vacant and not be budgeted for under the department's proposal.
Ackley told the committee that the position is essential for administrative oversight of the department and its procedures, and that eliminating it could increase costs elsewhere in the department.
“I say it will cost you more, and I am confident in that, to not fund it than to fund it,” she said.
Council President Michael Passero was critical of Reichard’s hire, saying the city is still paying Segar as part of his severance agreement.
“The taxpayers are paying for two, essentially, deputy chiefs at the same time,” he said.
Passero made a motion to have Ackley reduce the increase to her bottom line by $240,000, or two percent. Maynard amended the motion to eliminate the deputy chief’s position. The committee, consisting of Maynard and Passero on Tuesday since Councilor Adam Sprecace was out of town on business, unanimously passed both the amendment and the main motion.
Maynard said he felt municipal departments are becoming too top-heavy with administrative positions. He said he felt it was more important to fill the vacant officers’ positions than the deputy chief’s position.
“This city is turning into the school system,” he said. “We’re becoming support-heavy, staff-heavy.”
City Council President Pro Tempore Wade Hyslop, who is not a member of the committee but chairs the Public Safety Committee, said he thought the committee was “micromanaging” the department. Maynard said he considered the vote a response to Finizio’s actions.
“This is just eliminating a position he’s already eliminated,” said Maynard.
“He did not eliminate a position, he did not renew a contract,” replied Hyslop.
Maynard said he considers that the committee can target individual line items of the budget since the mayor has a line item veto. Passero said the full City Council will have a vote on whether or not they think the elimination of the deputy chief should be included in the final budget.
Other budget considerations
Ackley said her initial requested budget was about a $1.68 million increase, but that she cut it back at Finance Director Jeff Smith’s request. She said she was concerned that the proposed budget still leaves positions and programs unfunded.
“This is not an inflated budget,” said Ackley. “This is a budget that is almost $1 million less than I believe it should be.”
Most of the increase is due to contractual obligations and benefits for employees. It also includes increased health insurance costs and funds the city is legally obligated to pay to employees who have retired from the department.
Ackley says the goal is to increase the size of the department incrementally. She said it is important to fund youth programs, the Citizens Police Academy, and other programs she feels are important for community policing. She also said she was concerned that the requested reduction to the increase could affect areas such as the department’s and school resource officer programs.
Passero said departments across the city are also making sacrifices.
“The budget in your agency is increasing next year in a very tough time,” he said.