By Julie Huss
---- — LONDONDERRY — The police department hopes to continue to run a tight ship, without taking away from its high level of community service.
That, according to police Chief William Hart, is why the department spends a lot of time examining its budget every year and how every bit of money is spent.
Hart, along with Operations Commander Gerard Dussault, appeared before the Budget Committee last week to begin the process of bringing early budget information before the group.
No specific numbers were given yet, but officials did give specifics on where the money is spent and what a fiscal year 2015 wish list might include.
Hart said he is proud of how his department handles its budget. That includes making the process a collaborative effort among management, the union and other administrators.
“Frankly, I think we do an excellent job at managing the budget and by we, I mean the men and women of the department,” Hart said.
Dussault said police keep a tight grip on their numbers and review the budget on a weekly basis.
“We make sure we’re not overspending and that we’re on target,” he said.
Budgets are compared to the previous year’s numbers, Dussault said. Many factors drive what gets spent.
“For instance, this week we are $31,000 to the good over last year (in overtime), better this year,” he said. “Less people are injured and more streamlined training is also more effective.”
Dussault said he won’t be surprised if the department comes in under budget this year.
Hart said he pays very close attention to the overtime numbers.
“We worked very hard to manage the overtime,” he said. “But some things we have no control over.”
Hart said there are other areas that impact his budget, including benefits, retirement costs the town must incur and staffing levels.
The chief said his department is down overall by five staff members, but he will be looking to change that.
Filling positions with people already certified saves on training costs and time, he said.
More hours for the town’s part-time animal control office position might also serve the town well, Dussault said. Now, the position is 15 hours a week, Tuesday through Thursday.
“The reality is, we are the largest community with the lowest animal control (hours) in the state,” he said.
Voters added a School Resource Officer in the last budget cycle. Between that and animal control, that’s about all the department does for community outreach, Dussault said. There’s not always enough money for other projects like bike rodeos or special programs or events.
“They are the closest thing we have,” he said. “But they are worth their weight in gold.”
With future large developments in the pipeline, including Woodmont Commons and a potential large build-out of the Pettengill Road area, that could mean more stress on police.
Hart said it’s not too early to be thinking ahead.
“We need to be thinking about these issues now if we’ll be adequately prepared,” he said.
As budget talks continue, Hart said, his department will continue to do its best to produce the best service possible at a reasonable cost to taxpayers.
“And we want to provide an A-plus product, not just an A,” he said.
The Budget Committee next meets with Public Works on Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at Moose Hill Council Chambers at the town offices.