Council reviews police and fire department budgets

Common Council members agreed at a budget committee meeting on Wednesday to restore a full-time police department clerk position that had been cut in Mayor Michael Villa’s 2017-2018 proposed budget. The line was restored by making cuts to other lines recommended by Police Chief Greg Culick.

According to Culick, the current budget line for total salaries for the police department includes a 2% increase from last year in order to cover possible raises that have yet to be agreed on through future union negotiations. Since those negotiations have not yet begun, he suggested reducing the line by .5%, resulting in a reduction of approximately $14,000.

“The first half of the year, we’re probably not going to anticipate those raises,” said Culick.

Culick also suggested a cut to the deputy police chief salary line. According to Culick, Deputy Police Chief Victor Hugo, who was also present at the meeting, is planning to retire in March 2018. In Villa’s proposed budget, the deputy chief salary line had already been decreased below the amount which Culick had originally requested, a move that Culick said ran contrary to union contract. However, Culick said that if Hugo’s salary was left as he originally requested, but only utilized for 9 months of the fiscal year, the line could be further cut by approximately $16,000.

A total of $7,000 was also cut from two overtime lines, making the total cuts approximately $37,000, enough to restore the $36,361 salary for the clerk position.

Culick said he would not seek to restore a line for hiring a second full-time dispatcher, but did hope to find additional cuts to fund the leasing of new patrol cars.

Council members had second thoughts on a decision made last Monday to increase the projected revenue from the soon-to-be-established city ambulance service. The council had previously agreed to increase the projected revenue from the $350,000 amount in the mayor’s proposed budget to $400,000, but decided to lower it to the original amount on Wednesday.

Fire Chief Michael Whitty said that the original $350,000 projection was consistent with his own conservative estimate of $500,000 in revenue with two vehicles, and taking an “educated guess” that the department could respond to 70% of the calls with the one vehicle that is currently scheduled to arrive in August.

With the reduction in revenue projection, and with the two increases in expenses agreed on Monday to support the Inman Senior Center and the Waterfront Foundation, Controller Matt Agresta warned the council that the tax levy would be over the New York State mandated cap. Council members agreed to make further cuts to come in under the cap.

Council members plan to meet again today at 1pm at City Hall to discuss, Department of Public Works, water, and sewer budgets.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.