New London City Council looks at costs associated with police minimum staffing

New London - The City Council's Finance Committee on Monday reviewed the $8.9 million proposed budget that would pay for the minimum staffing of 80 city police officers required by ordinance.

The department's budget increase of $1.4 million is the largest proposed by Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio's city budget and would fund the addition of about 15 officers.

Though the budget includes funding for a minimum of 80 officers, the department would not be able to hire and train more than about five new officers at a time.

Finizio on Monday said his proposed budget "gives us the flexibility to, over the course of this year, hire to 80 (officers) and adjust for any variations in retirements or any other departmental needs throughout the year."

The increase in officers, Finizio has said, "will allow us to have a more visible and active police presence in our neighborhoods and in our downtown."

The mayor, who supported the minimum-staffing ordinance, also included in his budget funding for four K-9 units - each comprising a dog and its handler - as required by an ordinance passed by the previous City Council. "Now that the council has set the mandate for 80 officers, and previously mandated a four-dog K-9 unit, the burden will be on the council to fully fund these mandates," Finizio said in a statement after signing the ordinance March 20.

A report issued by a private law-enforcement advisory firm in 2007 found that the New London Police Department should have from 83 to 118 officers to address the city's needs, based on reported crime and calls for service.

Deputy Chief Peter Reichard has said there are currently about 65 police officers serving in the department, down by more than one-third from just two years ago due to officers retiring and leaving for other jobs.

The Finance Committee also reviewed the budget of the Office of Development & Planning, which proposes an increase of $51,251, allowing for the addition of a grant coordinator to oversee applying for grants and receiving payment. Finizio proposed staffing the position when he ran for mayor in 2011 and has said he believes that a grants coordinator would help reduce the cost of city government.

"A grant coordinator would bring in dozens of times his or her own salary, funding necessities such as vehicle purchases, building maintenance and street improvements," Finizio said in his State of the City address.

On April 1, Finizio presented his proposed city budget of $87,128,467 in spending, an increase of 7.24 percent over the current year's budget. If Finizio's proposal were adopted, the city's tax rate would increase by 12.20 mills to 39.70 mills.

c.young@theday.com

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