New London City Council considers cutting five more police officers

New London — The City Council’s Finance Committee is contemplating reducing the 2012-13 budget by about $950,000, which includes not filling five vacancies in the police department.

Among the cuts proposed by the administration Monday was a $250,000 cut to the police department. The department, which in 2011 had 96 officers, would be down to 81 officers if the cut is approved. That’s because the $42.3 million budget that residents rejected at last Tuesday’s referendum, also cut funding for 10 police vacancies.

“It comes down to how many police officers you want on the streets,’’ Police Chief Margaret Ackley told the committee Monday night.

After the meeting she said she had not proposed eliminating the positions and quickly left City Hall, referring questions to council members.

The Finance Committee, which will meet again at 6 tonight at City Hall, will discuss other adjustments to the budget, which would take it from a 7.5 percent tax increase to around 5 percent.

“I would like to set a goal of getting to 5 percent,’’ said Council President Michael Passero, who is also chairman of the Finance Committee.

“I would certainly like to see us get down to 3.5 percent, but I’ve not set that ambitious a goal.”

Councilor Anthony Nolan asked a series of questions about revenues from the Water Street Parking Garage, Ocean Beach Park and the Water & Water Pollution Control Authority, which are considered self-funding enterprise programs. The parking garage is budgeted to give the city $50,000 in revenues, but it was unclear if Ocean Beach and the water company would contribute to the city finances.

“I think it’s important we don’t just cut to cut,’’ Nolan said.

A special City Council meeting will be held Thursday to adopt an amended budget if the committee finishes its work tonight.

Just days after voters rejected the budget, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio announced he was laying off his administrative assistant. Monday Finance Director Jeffrey Smith said the layoff and some other personnel adjustments would save about $45,000. Another $280,000 would be cut from the finance office because a proposal to combine the municipal and school business offices will not be done this fiscal year, Smith said.

The city also could save about $500,000 by restructuring its debt. Smith said a few increases were also necessary, including about $60,000 for an audit and about $73,000 to the law director’s budget.

Smith said the new proposal is about $2 million less than what was spent last year.

“You have already done some serious cutting,’’ he said.

While there had been talk about other reductions, such as cutting the city’s contribution to the Public Library of New London and to other nonprofits, members of the finance committee said they were not interested in cutting library funds, the senior center or youth programs.

Councilor John Maynard started to suggest savings in personnel, such as cutting $10,000 from the salaries of department heads. But he stopped when he discovered the personnel list he was working from needed to be updated.

Smith handed the council an updated list of personnel and the salaries at the meeting. Maynard said he would make his proposals tonight after reviewing the list.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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