Police Expect to Come in Under Budget This Year

Police Chief William Hart and Gerard Dussault, captain of the Operations Division, discussed their preliminary budget with the budget committee but did not produce any numbers.
Hart told the committee at its Thursday, Sept. 26 meeting that the police department has developed what he called a “collaborative budget process, whereby we both plan and maintain our budget. We do this with the help of senior administrators, mid-level managers, the lieutenants and the union. We meet regularly to discuss budget concerns.

“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 the budget is reviewed weekly. “We try to project where we’re going to be at the end of the year and make sure that we’re reasonably close,” he said. “We make sure that we’re not overspending and that we’re on target as we enter the budget season.
“Another thing we do is we compare our budget over the same time last year so we know where we are and how much we spent this year, as compared to the same time last year,” he continued. “For instance, this week we are $31,000 to the good over last year, so we’re performing better this year.”
Dussault said the reason for the positive overtime number is fewer injuries this year than last, in addition to more streamlined and efficient training.
“We’re confident that we will come in under budget this year, barring some catastrophe of epic proportions,” Dussault said.
“For the past few years we have worked very hard to maintain fiscal discipline, but that said, what you’re really looking at is a lagging indicator of the fact we’ve been on low numbers for a while,” Hart said of staffing. “A person leaves the Londonderry police department and it’s at the very earliest, approximately 18 to 24 months before we’ve replaced that person, so if you have a spate of people leave, say three or four, you’re going to have a hole in the budget.
“We’ve really worked hard at how to manage overtime,” he added. “We know that in the first six months of the year we’re going to have higher overtime costs than in the last six months. We have nine holidays, people take vacations in the summertime, so we know those things and plan for them.”
Asked by committee member Tom Dalton about personnel, Hart said the department is down three now, and overall down five. “We’re in the process of looking at some folks now,” he added.
Dussault noted that when they replace officers who are already certified, it saves in both training time and money. “They don’t have to go through the police academy and there’s less training time, and you get a faster return on your dollar,” he explained. “An uncertified officer will take the better part of two years to reach a point where he’s fully confident.”
Dussault said an increase in benefits costs is the biggest single driver of budgeting increases over the past half decade, leading to a decrease in discretionary spending.
Committee member Mark Aronson asked if the police department was proactive or reactive and Dussault said that with current manpower, it was reactive. Aronson asked if that impacted public safety.
“I think potentially, yes,” Dussault said. “For example, we often get complaints of motor vehicles speeding. It’s hard to be proactive when all the officers on the afternoon shift are shagging calls.”
Dussault said the closest thing to community outreach the department has is the School Resource Officer (SRO), and SRO Brad Warriner works one weekend a month checking car seats with the fire department.
Hart also raised the issue of the recently approved Woodmont Commons development and the proposed Pettengill Road development.
“What affects the community as these projects come online is the lead time,” he said. “Let’s assume that two years from today we’re going to need two officers to service the Woodmont area. If we started today, we’re not going to be ready. It takes time to hire people, it takes time to train people, and it takes time to prepare people for that work.”
In response to a question from Dalton about health insurance, Hart said everyone is aware of the problem of health care costs and added it may lead to renegotiating contracts. “And by contracts, I mean with health insurers, and changing how that’s going to work when it comes to the employee,” he explained. “It’s an issue that people are aware of, but what concrete steps have people taken to address it? That I do not know.”

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