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Finance Approves Budgets At Revealing Meeting

Committee members praise clerk and public works, learn a lot about police operations

 

"I'm surprised everyone in town isn't armed at this point."  - Mayor McDaniel speaking to what detectives are busy with -- pistol permits.

 

Besides resident Wills Pike’s comments that the Finance Committee should be sure to “ask all the tough questions,” and offered, by way of example, a suggestion as to  whether or not Montville Police actually need uniforms and guns, a comment Town Planner Marcai Vlaun called  ‘bizarre,’ the Tuesday budget meeting was not unlike meetings before and those to come.

With a few notable exceptions: pistol permit requests by residents are up “2,000 percent,” some police officers uniform pants are rife with holes, and state police only come to the aid of local police “…when the press comes in.”

 

The Budgets

The committee had plenty of specific questions for department heads that made the meeting and ultimately, approved without much fanfare the budgets for public works, $2,203,057 the recommendations of Mayor Ronald K. McDaniel Jr.

Town Clerk Lisa J. Terry made her case for the requested level funding. She and others said there was a concern that the Finance Committee was looking to cut her assistant’s hours and thereby forcing the office to close at times. The committee said it asked every department if positions could be cut, if people could be laid off, she wasn’t singled out.  The committee made no move to cut hours. Terry said her department is “one of the only ones that brings in more than she spends.”  

The clerk’s office records, indexes and maintains all town records including all land records and vital statistics. The office also handles elections, licenses and permits and is a notary service. The committee praised Terry and voted to level fund, save for $3,000 offered by Terry as an olive branch (for map scanning), the department at $141,812.

And the committee formally approved in a 2-1 vote the Board of Education budget, recommended by McDaniel and

The police budget, slated to be examined, was not such a process; Lt. Leonard Bunnell did not make the meeting, though 23-year police department veteran and police officer’s union president Robin Salvatore was in attendance and she did answer some questions posed by the committee, admitting at one point that while she was not prepared and was speaking off the cuff, one way to cut costs would be to cut back on overtime.

That suggestion surprised Town Councilor and Finance committeewoman Rosetta Jones who saluted Salvatore.

“It’s commendable to hear a union president make a recommendation on overtime,” Jones said.

Uniform holes

A comment by Salvatore that some officers are wearing uniform pants with holes in them raised eyebrows. A police budget line item calls for $16,000 for uniforms, though there are talks in the works, Salvatore and McDaniel said, for new uniforms that are more “user friendly,” (“officers can’t run in the pants we have now.”) and can be washed as opposed to being dry-cleaned among other considerations.

And even more eye-opening was the revelation that, in part, the reason there’s so much police overtime – at around $270,000 -- is that officers find themselves doing investigations after routine shifts at overtime rates because the two department detectives are often tied up dealing with pistol permits.

“(Pistol permit requests) are up 2,000 percent,” Salvatore said.

McDaniel concurred: “I’m surprised everyone in town isn’t armed at this point.”

Montville police detectives have the responsibility to process gun permits which includes copious background checks and plenty of legwork.

Not there when you need them

Another reason overtime is high, Salvatore and McDaniel agreed, is that local police cannot rely on State Police for assistance with calls “unless the press is here.”

“The Troop (E) is not covering our calls when we’re tied up,” Salvatore said.

McDaniel went further: “They come when the press comes.”

McDaniel said the police department and issues related to public safety take up the bulk of his time and are his “biggest headache.”

The $1.9 million police budget was accepted with an increase in the allocation for weapon replacements – Salvatore said it has been at least a decade since the department had new weapons – and a decrease in the allocation for equipment.

 

The Town Council has a week until it must okay the proposed $55.7 million 2012-2013 spending plan.

 

Wills Pike May 30, 2012 at 12:10 PM
The reporter has not reflected my comments correctly. My concern with the police budget line items ....Uniforms and Weapons/Ammunition..was the validation as to the proposed budget for these two items. Officer Salvatore gave a detailed description of the need for Uniforms and the need for replacement of Weapons/Ammunition to the Finance Committee. My understanding is the replacement uniforms falls under the Public Safety Commitee, which will save the town money going forward. I commented at the end of the meeting that I appreciated the clarification of the two line items and I stated I fully support new uniforms and replacement of Weapons/Ammunition. The reporter should have stayed for the whole meeting for an accurate account of my comments.
J. Arrington May 30, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Unbelievable...the finance committee voted on the BOE budget and that item wasn't even listed on the posted agenda. They must have added it at the meeting. Talk about a back door move!!!
Linda May 30, 2012 at 12:42 PM
I don't think they asked the right questions like why does montville have more cars than cops? Why do they need to bring the cars home? Or why is LT. Bunnell still getting paid when he can't leave the office and back up his Officers because he can't use the computer to run plates or obtain other vital information in the field?
Dave Bottigliere May 30, 2012 at 01:08 PM
It appears that at least a decent attempt at fully understanding these proposed sector budgets was made, however, was this the same for the largest chunk of our spending -education. The Town needs to determine if $55 million or so is too high a budget for Montville residents to spend given the lack of services and general make up of the Town. A quick comparison with other nearby towns seems to indicate that we are not on the right path, if we want a healthy real estate market and reasonable cost of living. People are not flocking to Montville in droves because of our education system or other "big attractions", maybe it's time the council face this reality and transform Montville into a town that works for all its residents. We need to make Montville competitive and attractive as a town that would be favorable to move to or to set up a business. The present tax climate, apparent direction of the town, and having relatively little to offer is evident and the results seem to bear that out. It appears that the council has another vision of Montville.
Sam Rogers May 30, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Dave, Since when has having "a healthy real estate market" been a primary purpose of local government? If the value of your home is not what you wish it to be, or you're upside down on your mortgage, or you're a real estate agent suffering in a bad market, how are these anyone's problem but your own, and the product of choices that you made? Making "Montville competitive and attractive as a town that would be favorable to move to" translates into more kids in the schools and hence higher taxes for everyone; personal profits for those in the real estate business at the expense of everyone else (for the same reason); and/or or a higher value for your own home so you can sell it and move to somewhere you'd prefer to be. How would any of these scenarios constitute "a town that works for all its residents?"
Donna Geary May 30, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Dave, could you be specific regarding the "lack of services" and "general make up of the the Town" ? I'm not sure a "quick comparison with nearby towns" gives you the data necessary to assess how we are doing. There are many variables in how different towns and cities report their budgetary expenses and I never found a "quick" look satisfactorily explained the difference. Thanks
Mari Jurczyk May 30, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Sam - did you actually read back your comments? What you said doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Of course, making our town attractive to more people and more businesses will benefit all residents! Are you indicating that you do not want people to move into Montville because you're afraid they'll have kids and the BOE budget will increase more than what it already is? That's ridiculous! The more people who move here, buy homes and pay taxes and the more businesses that come here and pay taxes will certainly benefit all of us!!! Regarding your real estate market comment, I for one am not pleased that the value of my home has deceased, however, I am also realistic and know that not only Montville suffers from the poor real estate market; most area towns do as well. I don't think Dave's post revolved around the real estate market though. Maybe you should re-read it.
Fred Infantino May 30, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Mayor McDaniel's quote, "I'm surprised everyone in town isn't armed at this point" at best is alarming coming from our highest elected official. Is he advocating for people in town to arm themselves and against what? Could he be preparing us for a Martian invasion...
Crazy Lady May 31, 2012 at 11:39 AM
Montville is starting to look as dumb as New London. Lets cut Education but buy new guns and uniforms for the police. WOW Can we take another 16 months with this current council and over 3 years with the mayor? I don't think so. People will be moving out of Town real fast after they get the new tax bill in July when you pay more on a house that is worth less and the services in town go down.
Dave Bottigliere May 31, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Sam, I realize the devaluation in the real estate market but that is not what I was referring to. Due to the overall economic conditions potential real estate buyers and businesses want to get the most for their tax dollar and have become more choosy. Unfortunately, we have a somewhat low commericial contribution to our tax base so the residents feel the increases a little bit more. My concern is that Montville used to be a tax friendly town that provided a decent education. We are still providing that education but other nearby towns with water front parks, more businesses and shops and decent education can attract businesses and new residents easier because they will get more for their tax dollar. I also think throwing money at education may not always be the answer, we had a very good education program when we were spending $27 million/yr now we spend $36 million. We don't have more students but we may have more state mandates that would mandatorily increase spending but we should examine this. Additionally, we spend heavily on education but we do not fix roads, bridges, have nice parks, etc. for ALL residents to utilize. We provide basics of police, fire, and minor public works but it pales in comparison to education. If it could be done without such a high tax rate and make Montville a less expensive town to live in then it would work for all residents, but not at the current high tax rates. When is enough spending truly enough? Are we doing it wisely?
Mari Jurczyk June 01, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Crazy Lady - have you actually reviewed the Board of Education budget? There is definitely room for cuts and those cuts have nothing to do with educating our children. Why is every memeber of the BOE attending the same seminar? Why aren't one or two members chosen and requied to report back to the others? Many businesses are run that way and do you know why? Because it's just not feasible to send everyone! I don't wish to reduce the BOE budget with regard to our children's education, however, there are definitely items on the budget that are not needed at this time. As we all know, we are in an extremely poor economy and we all have to learn to live within our means!
Janis H. Albert June 01, 2012 at 08:07 PM
“(Pistol permit requests) are up 2,000 percent,” Salvatore said. McDaniel concurred: “I’m surprised everyone in town isn’t armed at this point.” ---- I believe it was a remark in reference to the sudden increase in the number of pistol permits being applied for, that there are so many, it seems everyone in town must have one by now, not that he was advocating it.

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