Police, fire budgets proposed to increase in Naugatuck

NAUGATUCK — The police department requested a 7.95 percent increase in its budget for next fiscal year, and the fire department requested a 1.78 percent increase Monday before the Joint Boards of Mayor and Burgesses and Board of Finance.

Chief of Police Christopher Edson asked for nearly $6.2 million, a $456,000 increase from this fiscal year. Fire Chief Ken Hanks requested more than $3.6 million, almost $64,000 more than this year.

Most of the police department’s proposed budget increase comes from raises built in to the police union’s contract. Union members have not received raises the past two years. This year, they are set to receive a 3 percent raise in July, and another 3 percent in January.

“I’ve tried to present to you as lean a budget as I could in good faith,” Edson said.

His request also included increases in heating, gas and electricity costs, and $20,000 for a blight officer, which finance board members decided not to cut Monday in a non-binding vote.

The department also requested an increase of $21,000 for computer maintenance, which had been cut from this fiscal year’s budget.
Edson said the money was necessary to update information technology and telephone systems.

“The department, over the years, becomes more dependent on information technology,” Edson said. “I’m asking you to increase that account this year back to what we were spending before.”

The police department also requested an increase of $29,372 to its allowance that pays for employees to get bachelor’s and master’s degrees, in response to more new officers and mid-level managers expressing interest.

“Everybody’s kind of seeing the writing on the wall that if you are expecting to advance in the Naugatuck Police Department, you’d better have a degree,” Edson said.

The fire department budget is also proposed to increase largely due to union raises. Union members will receive a 1.5 percent raise in July, and the same again in January.

To offset those raises, Hanks made some cuts, including funding for equipment maintenance at the East Side Fire Station and generator fuel, which he said the department has not used since it got the generator in 1991.

Although no decisions are final until May, and the finance board decided to revisit the gas and oil budget in a few months, members decided to give the department $2,000 less than requested for vehicle repairs, and approved everything else.

Some finance board members suggested renegotiating the raises out of union contracts, citing Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s initiative as an example, which Mayor Robert A. Mezzo opposed because it would make negotiating costly health and pension benefits harder.

“You’d like to have carrots, but you don’t want to pretend you have a stick that doesn’t exist,” Mezzo said.