New London - The police department may get funding for a new deputy after all, if a possible $200,000 miscalculation in insurance costs in the city's budget is confirmed.
On Wednesday, the City Council Finance Committee nearly reversed its Tuesday decision to eliminate funding for the deputy chief position in an effort to shave $240,000 from next year's proposed $12.28 million police budget.
After learning that the finance department may have included funds in the budget for health benefits for seven positions that are vacant, Council President Michael Passero, chairman of the three-member Finance Committee, made a motion during Wednesday's meeting to reconsider the vote.
Councilors Adam Sprecace and John Maynard, the other members of the committee, voted against reconsideration.
But Sprecace said he was voting "no" only until he hears from the finance department how much money was overbudgeted for health benefits. He estimated it could be about $200,000.
"I'm voting 'no' for now,'' said Sprecace, who was not at Tuesday's meeting when the original motion was made. "I agree there's a need for a deputy chief,"
Police Chief Margaret Ackley postponed her vacation to attend Wednesday's meeting and told the council that eliminating the deputy position, which costs around $150,000 for salary and benefits, could end up costing the city $500,000.
"Anyone who says we don't need a deputy chief in a department with 96 officers, clearly doesn't know about policing and probably shouldn't even be commenting,'' Ackley told the committee.
She outlined the duties of the deputy, which include investigating internal affairs and civilian complaints, community outreach, overseeing police reports and dealing with the press.
"It's not always about boots on the street,'' she said. "The boots on the street need direction.''
She also admonished the councilors, asking if they were making a decision on the deputy position because they are upset with Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, who announced the hiring Monday. Several councilors said they had no idea Finizio had hired someone to replace Deputy Chief Marshall Segar, whose contract was not renewed last January as part of a restructuring of the police department.
Maynard took exception to Ackley's comments and said he is only looking out for the taxpayers. Passero, too, was taken aback.
"You should not assume the council's motives,'' he said. "The motion last night was to decrease $240,000 from your $12 million budget."
Late Wednesday night, the committee continued to go over the mayor's proposed $87 million budget and had not finished making cuts by press time.
The mayor has proposed a 6.4 percent spending increase that would require a 20 percent increase in the tax rate. Under his proposal, the tax rate would increase by 5 mills, to 30.28 mills.
The Finance Committee has been paring down the mayor's proposal, trying to get to a 2 percent tax increase, which would mean about a 0.5 mill increase.
As of Wednesday, the committee had cut more than $2 million from the proposal, which still would require a 14.5 percent increase in the tax rate. The current 25.28 mill rate would have to be increased by 3.67 mills to cover the increase.
The full council is expected to vote on the 2012-13 spending plan when it convenes at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall.