Waterford police budget clears selectmen

Waterford - The Board of Selectmen has approved 11 of the 13 proposed 2014-15 departmental budgets it considered last Thursday along with revised budgets for the police department and the Recreation and Parks Commission.

Ultimately, the board approved a budget of $5,393,083 for the police department. That amount was agreed upon after the board voted to eliminate $60,000 from a line item for replacement overtime pay, which is used fill shifts when an officer is sick, takes a day off or goes on medical leave.

The approved police budget is $192,253 - or roughly 3.6 percent - more than the budget approved last year by the Representative Town Meeting.

During his address to the board, Police Chief Murray J. Pendleton said the department hopes to add a part-time community service officer who can keep watch at the police station during overnight shifts, which would allow all police officers to respond to incidents.

"There are several shifts that have only one sergeant working and when things happen in certain areas, it's necessary for the sergeant to be at the scene," Pendleton said. "In order to do that, he would have to leave the [station] unattended," which department rules do not allow.

The department's staffing level has not increased since the Crystal Mall opened in 1984, Pendleton said, despite the fact that more than three times the mall's square footage has been built in the town since then.

"We're going to train this guy on how to watch over the police department when there is no one else in the building but him. That way the sergeant will be free to respond out there or check on what needs to be checked," the chief said. "The total increase here, designed to cover evening and midnight shifts, is about $40,000. That's a very valuable $40,000."

The new position would be a part-time job and would not include benefits, Pendleton said.

The Board of Selectmen also approved a revised budget of $1,342,839 for the Recreation and Parks Commission, after cutting about $400 from the proposed budget. The meeting was the first of seven scheduled budget hearings the Board of Selectmen will hold before forwarding the complete government budget to the Board of Finance for review. The next hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday at Town Hall.

Four years ago, the Board of Selectmen introduced a policy that all departmental budgets would come to the selectmen before the town budget is submitted to the Board of Finance. The Board of Finance is slated to begin its review in March.

The Board of Education is seeking a budget of $45,162,491 for 2014-15. The budget is $639,723 - or 1.44 percent - more than the current budget.

"This budget that you have in front of you supports excellence in the Waterford schools," Superintendent Jerome R. Belair told the board. "We are a good system, we are a very good system and we are a school district that really wants to be great. Our goal in all of this is to move the school system forward."

The proposed school budget includes increases for salaries, tuition for students who attend schools in other districts and technology improvements. The budget decreases funding for sick leave payouts, student transportation and fuel oil. The Board of Education is expected to vote on the proposed budget at its meeting on Thursday.


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