DERRY - When Police Chief Ed Garone appeared before the Town Council last week to review the department's proposed $9,131,818 budget, he warned that the 2014 budget he was presenting was less than what he believed was necessary to run the department properly.
"As I have said in past budget sessions, the budget I have submitted is less than what I believe is necessary to deliver progressive, proactive, and preventative law enforcement services to the community," said Garone. "Our contingent of sworn officers now stands at 56, down from a high of 60 several years ago. Considering our community's latest population estimate, we now have 1.69 officers per 1,000 residents, which is below our long-stated goal of 1.9 officers per 1,000 residents."
But by the end of the review session, the council had slashed police budget proposed by department and Town Administrator John Anderson, reducing the overtime budget by $50,000.
Councilor Mark Osborne made the motion to reduce the department's overtime budget, noting that it was an increase over the current year's budget.
"Is it an outrageous request in your mind or something that would be do-able given the financial restraints this town is facing?" Osborne asked.
"The problem we face is that we will be unable to predict what will happen," said Garone. "God forbid, there is a homicide tonight or tomorrow or whenever, that could easily eat up $20,000 or $30,000 (of overtime pay) without a lot of effort. We could also have an unusual storm that could chew up a lot of overtime."
Garone noted that of the $795,575 in proposed overtime costs, about a quarter is in reimbursable detail costs.
Police Capt. Vernon Thomas noted that the overtime pay is used to fill shifts for officers who are sick or on vacation, to cover officer training, and to cover emergency situations.
"From a public safety aspect, we want to put enough officers on the street," said Thomas.
Councilors Brad Benson and Neil Wetherbee voted against cutting the police overtime budget. Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores was unable to attend the review of the police budget.
"Overall, I think the budget is good, but I can't support the $50,000 cut in overtime," said Wetherbee.
Overall, the budget includes no new positions, said Garone. It also includes a three-year lease for 11 new police cruisers that will be paid for through debt firstname.lastname@example.org