[Editor's note: this is part of a series of articles Newtown Patch will be publishing about the proposed budget leading up the referendum on April 24.]
With a fiscal year 2012-13 budget going to referendum that is just $113,000 (1.97%) more than its current budget, has learned that, within his department, “We certainly have to adjust to the economic times.”
He said that establishing internal controls is one way the department is seeking to control its expenses. The department's amended budget for 2011-12 is $5.76 million.
“We’ll monitor a line item very closely,” Kehoe said. The overtime budget, he noted, was reduced by $20,000 from the budget he had proposed in spite of increases in overtime that the department has experienced.
“Your needs are not consistent every year,” he continued. “Investigative needs, other requests — they change from year to year. We can’t determine when extra staff will be needed. They just crop up from nowhere and we just spring into action. That can happen at any given time. We have officers in the field who have to stay there a lot of time to finish an investigation. That happens daily, almost,” he said.
He noted that, in the three years since the harsh economic climate began in 2008, service calls to the department have continued to climb steadily — from 20,299 calls in 2008 to more than 25,000 in 2011, or an increase of nearly 20 percent.
According to the police blotter, officers responded to 94 incidents on April 13, 107 on April 14 and 82 on April 15.
A contract for sworn personnel in the police department settled and signed last summer after last year’s referendum took place accounts for an increase of close to $125,000 in the monies for the police department in , although other department costs have been shaved or eliminated. For police recruitment, for instance, the budget for this fiscal year amounts to $4,000. That expense has been eliminated entirely in the proposed budget.
What pleases Chief Kehoe the most in a budget that has remained virtually flat from the current fiscal year as amended is the allocation for the second year in a row of $90,000 for , because a dollar amount he termed "stabilizing" gives him the opportunity to plan for the replacement of vehicles in a fleet whose cars currently date from 2001 to 2011.
“We’re now in a cycle of replacing our police cruisers,” he said, acknowledging that a back-to-back allocation of funds permits his department to conduct long-term planning for its fleet, whose vehicles the department secures in a bidding process from the State of Connecticut. “We’re going to stick to it.”
He said that some of the police department’s vehicles are front-line, emergency response vehicles. “Those are the cruisers that are out every day. We want them to be reliable and very safe to drive.”
As part of doing more with less, the police department is careful to copy on both sides of each sheet of paper it uses.
“We’re doing more with less,” the police chief affirmed. “Every department in town is doing that. That’s just part of the economy, and we recognize that.”