Chief Margaret Ackley will appear before the Finance Committee for a second time this month after city councilors requested more information on revenues.
The committee began meeting Monday to discuss a fiscal year 2013 budget proposed by Mayor Daryl Finizio. The represents a 6.4 percent budget increase, with a mill rate increase of 4.97 mills to 30.28.
Finizio’s budget proposes an increase of $711,394, or 6.15 percent, to the police department’s budget. This would increase the budget from the $11,569,257 appropriated for the current fiscal year to $12,280,651.
Most of the proposed increases are a result of contractual obligations and benefits for employees. Ackley said there are currently vacancies in the deputy chief’s position, two captains’ positions, seven uniformed officers’ positions, and one crime analyst position. The budget proposes leaving the officers’ positions and one captain’s position vacant and unfunded for the fiscal year while budgeting for the rest.
Leaving the officers’ positions unfunded reduces uniformed payroll by $547,276. Councilor Adam Sprecace noted an increase in overtime payroll over recent years, with $450,000 budgeted for 2012 and a projection that $695,143 will be spent. The 2013 budget proposal calls for $688,800 for uniformed services overtime. Ackley said the overtime is a result of officers covering shifts with a smaller workforce, but said other factors play a part as well, including the need to use flex hours to the department's advantage.
According to the budget proposal, the department is projected to overspend its 2012 budget by $505,579. Sprecace said the City Council approved a 2012 police budget similar to that requested by the department, with the exception of . However, Ackley said she felt the budget was ultimately insufficient for the operation of the department.
“No one realized that what was in front of you was not adequate, because we were fighting over the $18,000 that wasn’t accurate,” she said.
This was a reference to budget discussions last year, which included discussions over of $10,000 for former Deputy Chief Marshall Segar and $18,000 for Ackley. On Monday, Ackley said she was unaware that former City Manager Denise Rose had included the proposals in the budget until last year's Finance Committee meeting on the police budget.
Ackley said she also felt the city is at risk of underfunding its retirement mandates, saying that the department’s expenditures could balloon if several tenured employees decide to retire. She also said she has looked to find savings in a number of areas, including deciding not to request a new detective’s position and leaving out requests for supplies such as new office equipment and voice recorders, out of concern for the potential tax increase.
“I live in the city. I’m a taxpayer. I’m very sympathetic to that,” she said.
Ackley was also asked about discussions on potentially regionalizing animal control with Waterford or Groton, and she replied that the talks came to a halt last year. She said she thinks the facility needs improvement, but that the animal control officers work to have food and supplies donated and keep the shelter’s operations going at a minimal cost to the city.
Councilor John Maynard said he felt upgrading the shelter is the best option for the city.
“We get the one-time cost of upgrading the dog pound, but in the end we’ll be saving,” he said.
Also on Monday, the Finance Committee unanimously approved:
- A $145,000 elections budget, a reduction of $31,432 from the proposed amount.
- The $19,000 budget requested for the .
- A $330,142 budget for the , a reduction of $9,000 from the proposed amount.