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New London - The City Council began the budget review process Monday with a police department budget that is proposed to go up by $711,000.
Included in the $12.28 million police budget for fiscal year 2012-13 - a 6.2 percent increase over the current spending plan - are payments for two captains who retired in January, said Chief Margaret Ackley, as well as money for a separation agreement with former Deputy Chief Marshall Segar, whose contract was not renewed, also in January.
The council has voted three times not to fund any of those agreements, most recently last month. Both former captains, William Dittman and Michael Lacey, have sued the city for breaching their respective contracts, which they say Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio signed and claimed valid. Both veteran officers have said they last received a paycheck from the city in early February.
The current year's police budget is $11.57 million, but the year-end estimate is $431,000 over budget.
Next year's budget proposal also includes money to fund one new captain and a new deputy chief, positions that have been vacant since the Jan. 6 changes to police administration.
Councilor Adam Sprecace suggested not hiring a new deputy chief and instead using the funds to pay for Segar's settlement, which called for a year's salary upon separation.
Sprecace suggested the department fill the second-in-command position in the 2014 fiscal year.
"Would your operations be negatively affected by doing that?" he asked the chief.
Ackley said it would.
During the meeting, Ackley said it would not "be fair" to even consider not hiring a deputy chief.
"I don't think that's the answer," she said.
The department plans to leave seven patrolman positions vacant, Ackley said, but the budget proposal includes salaries for a crimes analyst and a dispatcher, among other hires.
Much of the increase comes from cost increases per employee, Ackley said, and buying equipment.
The proposal does not include costs associated with an officer retiring during the year, Ackley said, which is always a possibility but never budgeted for.
"If tenured employees leave, we could be half a million over budget like that," Ackley said, snapping her fingers. "That's not even an enhanced agreement, just what the city is responsible for."
The council said it would not act Monday on the budget but asked Ackley to return for another meeting later this month. The council also reviewed, among others, the city clerk and recreation budgets Monday.
Monday's meeting was the first of four sessions the council has scheduled to review the city budget department by department. The next session is Thursday; the council has until May 1 to review the budget.
Last week, Finizio gave his first "State of the City" address and proposed a budget that included $46 million for general government, a 9.7 percent increase, and $41 million for the schools, a 3 percent increase.
Finizio's proposal would result in a 5-mill tax increase. If it is approved, the owner of a home assessed at $200,000 would face an increase of $1,000 in annual property taxes.
The city has not had a tax increase since 2009.