Published January 23. 2013 4:00AM Updated January 24. 2013 12:14AM
Waterford - For the second time this budget season, police Chief Murray Pendleton appeared before the Board of Selectmen to present the department's proposed 2013-14 budget, but this time, he had reduced it by $107,650 or 2 percent.
The selectmen approved the department's revised $5.2 million budget, despite the fact that they had asked for a reduction of $157,000 when they rejected the department's budget last week. That budget called for a $315,379 or 6.32 percent increase, the largest ever proposed.
Tuesday's approved department budget was reduced by $100,000 in replacement overtime and $7,650 from the department's Social Security and Medicare plan. The department had originally proposed $250,000 for replacement overtime, which is used when an officer is sick, takes a day off or goes on medical leave.
Finance Director Rudy Beers said Tuesday that $163,329 in replacement overtime was budgeted for this year and $115,814 has already been spent. She said it's possible that budget will be exceeded before the end of this fiscal year and that last year, $198,329 was spent in replacement overtime.
Police Lt. David Burton said after the budget meeting that 44 percent of the open patrol shifts at the department are filled every day and that ideal staffing levels for each shift include five patrolmen and one supervisor. He said at its lowest staffing level, the department operates with three patrolmen and a supervisor.
Pendleton noted that the department is "a borderline agency" in terms of its staffing that "is on the fringe of becoming reactive as opposed to proactive."
He said the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School last year has caused increased anxiety and that the police must address concerns voiced by the community and school officials.
"We know that Sandy Hook will have a serious impact on guns, backgrounds, pistol permits, all of which we are deeply involved in," he said. "School security process will change dramatically, and these types of incidences are happening more often then not, almost every weekend incidents are happening."
He said he's committed to returning a school resource officer to Clark Lane Middle School in the spring as a result of increased security measures. The SRO was previously a full-time position but was eliminated two years ago because funding got tight, he said.
First Selectman Dan Steward said that the board approved the police increase because the department was able to reduce its budget by $100,000.
"The dollar increase is what we're trying to get down," he said, "they have a two-year incremental increase in salary in this budget and after Newtown, and the security issues they're going to have to address, it'd be inappropriate not to completely fund them."
The Board of Selectmen are scheduled to meet Thursday at 5 p.m. to review the proposed budgets of eight town departments before forwarding the requests to the Board of Finance which begins its review March 4.