NAUGATUCK — The process of fine tuning the borough’s 2014-15 budget began Monday night with a presentation of the police and fire departments’ spending proposals to the Joint Boards of Finance and Mayor and Burgesses.
The police department budget request is about $7.05 million, which is an increase of approximately $674,000 over the current budget. The largest increase, $328,764 increase, comes in the salary line item.
Police Chief Christopher Edson said the increase stems from contractual raises as well as a request to hire two new officers at approximately $64,500 each and a new dispatcher at about $46,000.
Edson said hiring new officers would allow the department to promote an officer to sergeant to cover the evening or night shift. Currently there are two sergeants on the day shift, one on the evening shift, one on the night shift and one that shifts between evening and night. Adding one more would allow two on each shift.
One of the new officers is also wanted so the department can place a full-time school resource officer at City Hill Middle School. This position was requested last year but ultimately didn’t make the cut in the final budget.
Deputy Police Chief Joshua Bernegger said the needs of children are changing and the position is a necessity.
“I can’t say that there are issues outside the ordinary of any other school in the state of Connecticut,” Bernegger said. “The fact of the matter is our youth are being faced with decisions far earlier in their life than what they used to — things that used to confront our youth in high school are now confronting them in middle school.”
Board of Finance member Dan Sheridan, who had been one of the most outspoken critics of hiring a school resource officer in previous years, came down strongly in favor of it.
“I’ve been fighting that SRO position for a number of years, but I think City Hill is out of control, and I am going to change my opinion on that because I think you need a full-time person up there,” Sheridan said
The police department is also seeking an additional $250,000 for the overtime budget, which would bring the account up to $800,000.
Edson said the department requested $650,000 for the current budget, but only received $550,000.
“As we’re trending right now we’re probably going to be coming back looking for that $100,000.When we put a number in the budget, it is a real number. We are not inflating these accounts. But at the same time we understand the difficulties this board has when trying to decide where to allocate the funds,” Edson said.
After some deliberation the board decided to bring the overtime request to $700,000.
The fire department presented a $4.2 million proposal, which is an increase of approximately $344,000 over the current budget.
The largest proposed increases are in the payroll, a $193,000 increase, and overtime, a $75,000 increase.
Fire Chief Ken Hanks said the increases are due to four firefighters who have verbally committed to retiring this year. This will mean other firefighters will have to work overtime to cover shifts for new hires as they go through the fire school.
The increase also includes a request for full-time fire marshal for $60,000.
Currently the borough only has an acting fire marshal and an acting deputy fire marshal.
Hanks said the fire marshal’s office used to have three full-time firefighters and a secretary. Due to the staff shortage, he said, the office has had trouble keeping up to date on fire inspections.
“The thing I find very challenging with both the police department and the fire department is you’re talking about public safety, and it’s really easy to discount either one of those departments until your house is on fire or you’ve got a thief in your basement or your mother has been scammed by somebody,” Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi said.
The borough also placed $80,000 in the emergency services account, which used to be the line item for Naugatuck Ambulance. The borough and the ambulance company have been at odds recently and are currently in negotiations.
The current budget doesn’t include any funding for Naugatuck Ambulance. The $80,000 is meant to be a placeholder.
Rossi said since negotiations are ongoing it’s prudent to place that money in the account.
Budget deliberations will continue over the next couple of months. The joint boards are scheduled to adopt the 2014-15 budget on May 15.
Budget presentations will continue March 3 at 6:30 p.m. in Town Hall and will include the budget proposals for downtown development, the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation, social services and the Whittemore Library.