CLINTON — Clinton voters approved the town’s annual budget of 4.2 million Tuesday, endorsing a 15 percent increase in police spending and a lease-purchase agreement for a new police cruiser.

The budget increase will be covered by using surplus money left over from prior years, according to Town Manager Warren Hatch.

Last year, the initial police budgetwas rejected by voters. Three tempestuous public hearings were held, at which some called for elimination of the department, before the budget was approved.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome,” said Police Chief Craig Johnson Wednesday. “What we went through last year, there was really none of that this year.”

Voters Tuesday also approved borrowing $1.5 million to upgrade several of the town’s roads, many of which need repaving, Hatch said. The town will repay the sum over nine years through annual payments of about $200,000.

The main reason for the increase in police spending —— totaling about $36,000 —— is to keep the department’s pay scale competitive with neighboring departments according to Johnson.

“We need to maintain competitive wages with other police departments so we don’t become a training ground for other departments,” Johnson said.

Last year, the police department lost full-time officer Michael Sayers to nearby Oakland Police Department, which paid about $5 an hour more, Johnson said.

Full-time officers start at around $14 an hour at Clinton, Johnson said, compared to wages ranging from $17-$19 an hour elsewhere in central Maine. Johnson said the increased budget will increase the two full-time officers on staff — Johnson and Charles Theobold — to the $16 an hour range.

The budget, also includes the money to hire another full-time officer, something Johnson said the department needs based on the number of calls made for police assistance. In 2013, the Clinton Police Department received 4,240 calls for service, compared to 3,165 in 2012 and 1,991 in 2011.

“The calls have gone up each year and we have to be prepared for another year of high calls,” Johnson said, adding that a lot of the calls take a long amount of time to respond too.

The police budget passed 268-200, while the article asking voters to transfer $7,661 from the surplus fund to pay for the new cruiser passed by a vote of 249-218.

Of 2,268 registered voters, 478, or 21 percent, voted Tuesday.

The police car that the department will be trading in is eight years old and has over 100,000 miles on it, Johnson said.

The calls for service in 2013 from Clinton show an increase in some categories of crime, while others declined. Calls for simple assaults, burglaries, thefts and criminal mischief were down last year after increasing for two consecutive years. The number of drunken driving arrests nearly tripled in Clinton last year, from 10 in 2012 to 27 in 2013. Reported burglaries dropped from 32 in 2012 to 12 in 2013 and reports of theft went from 84 in 2012 to 27 last year.

The budget for Clinton is $4,216,280, about $60,000 more than last year’s budget of $4,157,075. The difference in the budget will be covered by the town’s surplus fund.

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @jessescardina

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