Council members agreed to restore the budget line for the Amsterdam Police Department’s deputy chief position as well as for a second dispatcher at Monday’s budget review meeting. The lines were cut in the proposed budget submitted by Mayor Michael Villa who cited rising salary costs as the justification for the cut.
“I completely see the wisdom that salaries are getting out of control,” said Police Chief Greg Culick. However, Culick argued strongly for keeping the deputy chief position and commended Victor Hugo, the current deputy chief, on his reliability and service to the department over the past 38 years.
“I’m hearing things, that well – he’s a pencil pusher and he doesn’t do anything,” said Culick, who then passed out a two and a half page listing of the responsibilities for the position.
In addition to covering for the police chief in his absence, the list included numerous administrative tasks including overseeing the department’s budget, reviewing and approving overtime, working with union contracts, purchasing vehicles and equipment, overseeing the maintenance of the public safety building’s heating and cooling system, working with vendors for the department’s various information technology services, assistance with grant writing, taxi cab licensing, assisting with new hires, handling work orders for street sign installations, drafting common council resolutions, and preparing various required reporting for New York State.
“People fear Vic, because he is such an authoritarian on the budget,” said Culick. “He is a penny-pincher and this budget’s best friend.”
Culick said he would rather cut a lieutenant’s position, which has been vacant since last year, as those responsibilities have been able to be picked up by other staff members.
“It was never a thought of mine that we were going to discontinue the deputy chief…we’ve never talked about it,” said Culick.
Council members agreed that adding another dispatcher was also important. Culick said he experienced some resistance in his department to the idea of using the lower salaried dispatchers rather than officers at the front desk. But he said once contractual issues were solved with the union, officers warmed to the idea because it meant more time for them out on patrol.
Alderman Ed Russo said he wanted to go further and fund a third dispatcher, however according to Culick, the union had only agreed to two.
The vacant lieutenant’s position is listed in the budget at $79,484. Council members agreed to transfer that amount to restore the second dispatcher’s position at approximately $33,000. The remaining $46,000 would go toward the approximately $101,000 deputy chief’s salary. Culick then went through the rest of the items in the police department budget and shaved small amounts from several lines, including $15,000 for road striping, to make up the difference. After the meeting, Controller Matt Agresta tallied up the cuts and said there would still need to be approximately $6,000 in cuts to make up the difference. However, he said the council could cut additional funds from a salary line of one officer who would be retiring at the end of the year, which according to Culick, would most likely not be replaced for several months.
Culick said that over the next year, he would look for ways to take responsibilities off the deputy chief’s plate.
“Never having looked at this before…he’s responsible for way too many things,” admitted Culick, “That has to be spread out throughout the department.”
“You might have to be prepared for a veto,” warned Martuscello. “I want to make sure everybody is comfortable.”
Any individual change made to the mayor’s proposed budget by the council can be vetoed by the mayor. However, the veto can be overridden by a two-thirds majority vote by the council.
When contacted about the issue, Mayor Michael Villa deferred to comment at a later time.