Groton City Council to consider proposed city, highway budgets

Groton — The Groton City Council on Monday will consider proposed budgets for the police department and highways, both of which represent small increases from the approved amount this year.

City Mayor Keith Hedrick is seeking a $5 million budget for police, a 5.3 percent increase over current spending. However, the budget represents a decrease when benefits and capital costs are removed. That total, excluding the chief's benefits, is about $3.46 million, or 1 percent less than the amount requested to cover the same items this year.

The police budget would maintaining police staffing at 28 officers, including the deputy chief and chief. The city lost two police officer positions previously due to funding cuts, Finance Director Ronald Yuhas said.

Police Chief Michael Spellman said officers fill in on overtime, but the department needs a full staff. Electric Boat is hiring, parking issues remain and police are dealing with congestion related to work on the Gold Star Bridge, he said. Local police departments also recently took over charitable gaming responsibilities from the state police, he said. Charitable gaming relates to events like Bingo games, Bazaars and raffles.

Hedrick proposed a slight increase for city highways. His draft request is $2.1 million, or 1.5 percent over current spending.  Staffing will remain the same. "It is a level service budget," Hedrick said of both proposals.

Rising insurance and benefit costs are driving the increases, Yuhas said. In the highway budget, insurance and benefits will cost $64,000 more in the coming fiscal year. The total budget is rising less — about $60,000 — so savings must be found elsewhere to make up the difference.

Municipal leaders elsewhere are seeing a similar trend with rising insurance and benefit costs, Hedrick said.

After the City Council reviews and approves the budgets, it will submit funding requests to the Town Council at the end of February.

The town and city have clashed over both budgets in prior years. Last year, town councilors approved a budget of $2.24 million for city police, $174,000 less than the city had asked for.

Town and city leaders argued about the definition of reasonable funding for road maintenance. The city sought arbitration twice after the town cut city highway funding in prior years. In both instances, the city prevailed.

Editor's note: This corrects an earlier version

 d.straszheim@theday.com

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