, Derry, New Hampshire

May 2, 2013

Derry councilors take a swipe at overtime costs

By Julie Huss

---- — DERRY — As town councilors continue to ponder the budget numbers for fiscal year 2014, several town departments are getting overtime budgets trimmed to help save money.

Both the police department and Public Works saw their overtime line items slashed by $50,000 and $6,000, respectively, during recent budget review meetings.

Town departments appeared before the Town Council during the review process to offer their budget numbers for next year. Councilors then discussed any ways to trim the numbers before a final vote is expected later this month.

The police department was among the first to present its numbers. In his 40th budget message to the town, police Chief Edward Garone gave details of his proposed $9 million budget. He said his department worked hard to keep costs down and save as much money as possible. That included no new staff or programs.

Garone said planning the budget is often difficult as there are still many needs in the department.

“As I have said in past budget sessions, the budget I have submitted is less than what I believe is necessary to deliver progressive, proactive and preventative law enforcement services to the community,” Garone said.

He said his sworn officer staff now stands at 56, down from 60 several years ago, and less than what he feels the community needs.

Garone called the police overtime reduction “a pretty drastic cut.”

Councilors Michael Fairbanks, Mark Osborne, Tom Cardon and Al Dimmock all voted to slash the police overtime number with Brad Benson and Neil Wetherbee opposing the cut. Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores was unable to attend this workshop.

Garone’s budget also included some capital projects, including a new $32,000 building for dry storage of larger evidence items, including vehicles that were involved in crimes and needing storage until court cases are held.

Right now, those items are stored under tarps.

“These vehicles are involved in negligent homicides and the cases could carry on for two years or more,” Garone said. “We have to maintain the vehicles involved in these crashes.”

The building also would store the large number of unclaimed bicycles the department collects each year. Many of those end up being sold at the annual town surplus auction.

Public Works also took an $6,000 overtime reduction hit. That department’s total budget is proposed at $9.3 million. Public Works also receives benefits from grant money and other revenue sources.

The department includes highway, parks and recreation, cemetery, buildings and grounds, the transfer station and vehicle maintenance. Department head Michael Fowler said all facets of Public Works operate well together.

“We’ve come a long way to consolidate,” he said. “We share manpower, we share equipment.”

That department’s overtime costs come mainly from extra snow removal work and maintenance at town facilities.

“You can cut it and just know there may be times when the parking lot won’t get cleared,” Fowler said.

Garone said his department followed the directions of the council when it came to preparing for next year’s numbers. That meant no increased staff and as much savings as possible.

“We’re soldiers, that’s what we do,” Garone said. “We follow orders.”

Budget workshops were scheduled to continue this week with both Derry Public and Taylor Library budgets up for review. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for May 2, with a final vote on the budget and CIP planned for May 14.