Budget plan increases state trooper cost

Towns that take part in the resident state trooper program would have to shoulder the entire financial burden under Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed budget.

Malloy, in his proposed budget released last week wants towns to pay 100 percent of the cost of their resident troopers, including salary, equipment and cruiser. Eliminating the 30 percent state subsidy would raise about $4 million for the state.

“It’s a very disturbing proposal because of the cost,” Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield said.

Prospect and Beacon Falls are two of the 56 municipalities across the state that take part in the program. Currently the municipalities pay 70 percent of the costs and the state bears the other 30 percent.

However, under Malloy’s budget, the other 30 percent will be the responsibility of the municipalities as well.

Local municipalities are not taking the proposal well.

Chatfield said the town has had a resident state trooper for over 50 years. However, with the proposed increase, he will be considering the future of the state trooper program in town.

According to Chatfield, the town currently pays $123,000 for the resident state trooper. If Malloy’s proposed budget were to take effect he expects the budget to be in excess of $140,000.

If the town made the decision to relinquish its resident state trooper, Chatfield said, it would have to form its own police force or a regional police force. Both those possibilities, however, are in the distant future.

“It’s not anything that would happen over night,” Chatfield said.

Beacon Falls First Selectman Christopher Bielik was more concerned about the immediate impacts of the increase and how the town would move forward.

“We would, at that point, seriously look at a way of getting out of the state trooper program,” Bielik said. “We would have to find a way of increasing our level of coverage to the point where we could to create a stand-alone force.”

Bielik said he has already had preliminary discussions with police Lt. Eddie Rodriguez about the possibility of forming a police department.

“About six months ago we discussed the possibility of making transition from where we’re at to where we have autonomy for ourselves. This proposal will give us added incentive to look at that much more seriously,” Bielik said.

Bielik said this isn’t the first time the town has seen an increase in the cost of the resident state trooper recently.

“We got a little sticker shock last year during the budget. The cost went up from $100,000 to over $123,000 this year. That’s a 25 percent increase. It was a punch to the gut. If we add another 30 percent that takes us in excess of $160,000 for one police officer,” Bielik said.

In 2009, former Gov. M. Jodi Rell proposed to eliminate the 30 percent trooper subsidy over two years. She proposed to cut it from 30 percent to 15 percent the first year, then eliminate it entirely the following year.

The proposal was loudly panned by towns with resident troopers, and eventually was dropped.

Two years later, however, lawmakers approved a bill that mandated towns with troopers pay 100 percent of costs for overtime. Also, they required towns to pay the full cost of fringe benefits while the troopers work overtime.

Chatfield said the towns and the Connecticut Council of Small Towns have been fighting this proposal each time it has been put into a budget and he expects the same resistance this time.

“I expect they will mount the same type of thing,” Chatfield said.

The Republican-American contributed to this article.