Town Council Approves Budget, Cuts Police Department Overtime
The town council reduced the proposed budget by more than $28,000 Monday night, but approved its final passage.
From cutting funds for police overtime to reducing the number of lifeguards at Sandy Point Beach, the Portsmouth Town Council debated for nearly two hours Monday night on ways to make up the more than $28,000 loss of revenue in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2012.
In the end, the council voted to reduce $13,000 in overtime for the police department, reduce each department by $1,000, totaling $11,000, and ask the school department to cover the remaining deficit.
Following cuts, the council voted to approve the town budget of more than $57.6 million, an increase of 4.9 percent over fiscal year 2011.
The vote was 5 to 2, with Judi Staven and Liz Pedro opposed.
Eliminating raises and longevity pay
Councilor Judi Staven first proposed eliminating raises and longevity bonuses in the town departments.
“We shouldn’t be giving out raises and longevity," Staven said. "I would propose to take the monetary amount out of each of these departments for raises and longevity. It comes to over $500,000. Times are hard. We need to think about our taxpayers.”
“We have contracts,” Driscoll said. “…The town determines the workload of the town departments. We have to plow the snow in the winter. We have to respond to the heart attacks our residents have. You don’t cut services."
Finding cuts elsewhere
Councilors then discussed finding savings by possibly reducing funds for lifeguards, part-time personnel at the Melville Campgrounds and possibly turning off streetlights in town.
While none of these options were approved, the council did cut the police department's line item for overtime.
Councilor Keith Hamilton motioned to cut the overtime line item in the police department’s budget by $13,000. The motion passed in a 5-2 vote with Liz Pedro and Staven against.
After several stalmate votes and a brief intermission, President Joe Robicheau recommended again cutting the school department’s budget by $15,445. Council members sat silent at this for several minutes.
“I found $7,000 to cut in the town council’s budget. Can you cut your own compensation,” Hamilton eventually said to the town solicitor.
“There is a state law that prevents you from increasing and decreasing your compensation because you have a financial interest,” said Town Solicitor D.A. D’Andrea. “You can always agree to not take your pay, but can’t vote upon it as a council.”
Seveney then motioned to task the town finance director to make “undesignated cuts in $15,454 and come back in July with where those cuts are coming from.”
The motion failed in a 5-2 vote with Michael Buddemeyer and Seveney in favor.
Pedro then motioned to cut each department by $1,000, totaling $11,000, and assign the remaining deficit to the school department. “It doesn’t hurt as much if everybody shares,” Pedro said.
The motion passed 6-1 with Buddemeyer opposed.