WATERVILLE — How to find money in the proposed $18.2 million municipal budget to fund a full-time police patrol officer was a focal point Tuesday night during a City Council review of the 2016-16 budget.

Councilor Jackie Dupont, D-Ward 7, led the charge for finding the money, saying the city needs an additional officer.

“I would love to find ways we can reduce costs in some of these requests so we can put the position back in, because I think that position is so important,” Dupont said.

The Police Department’s proposed budget is $3.8 million, which reflects a 4.7 percent increase, or about $168,000, over the current year’s budget of $3.6 million. City Manager Michael Roy said the department is the city’s second-largest, with about 40 employees.

Increases in the police budget include contractual wage and salary increases, insurances, maintenance and repairs, and overtime costs because of increased raises. Maine State Retirement also represents an increase.

Police Chief Joseph Massey said he also added $5,000 to the budget for installing bulletproof windows in two walls of the dispatch center. When a stand-off occurred in the police parking lot a few months ago, the dispatchers were exposed at windows; and if there had been gunfire, someone could have been killed, he said.

“I think it’s prudent,” Massey said. “I think they deserve to be protected.”

Massey had asked for a new patrol officer position in the proposed budget to bring the staff up to where it was in 2011, but the administration cut it out of the budget. He also had asked for three new cruisers, as the department has a replacement cycle, and if cruisers are not replaced, they end up with 100,000 to 125,000 miles on them. At that mileage, they start needing new transmissions and other costly repairs, he said. One of the three vehicles was eliminated from the budget.

Also, Massey requested a part-time person to work half time in dispatch and half time in the records department, and that position was removed from the budget. He said the records person now coordinates thousands of reports monthly as well as digital records including videos from the booking room and the sally port. The district attorney’s office wants audio, 911 calls and other information, according to Massey. The records person, he said, spends many hours doing the work.

“It’s just burning her out,” he said.

Those three items Massey requested amount to about $100,000, he said.

Mayor Nick Isgro said he thinks city officials can look to the next couple of years and say this year is probably the hardest in terms of budgets, and in 2018 the city will see a real turn in tax revenue with the potential addition of 400 or 500 new bodies downtown. He was referring to the redevelopment of vacant downtown buildings and the addition of a Colby College dormitory. While every city department is strained this year, things will get better, Isgro said.

Massey said he cannot predict overtime costs in his department for events that might occur. In the last year, for instance, police dealt with several situations that required overtime, including a Rite Aid store robbery, a school principal investigation, an Oakland shooting that required help of three city officers, the stand-off at the police station, a hayride accident in which a woman was killed, a suspicious death on Drummond Avenue and a home invasion that included a sexual assault.

Councilor Nathaniel White, D-Ward 2, asked Massey whether having another full-time officer would help reduce overtime costs. Massey replied that he was not predicting a huge reduction. Dupont said she liked the logic that having an additional officer would cut down on overtime costs and suggested that having another officer who could do parking enforcement also would enhance revenue.

“I know we talked about the potential revenue-generating as well,” she said to Massey.

Isgro said he does not think anyone questions the need for another officer, but the city needs to get to the point where it has more tax revenue, in a couple of years. Roy noted that the city needs to realize $500,000 in leftover money from the current budget to add to the proposed budget.

“If we don’t see a half million dollars in the current year budget, the picture gets a lot worse,” he said.

Councilors on Tuesday also reviewed budgets for Waterville Public Library and Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport.

The proposed $18.2 million municipal budget for 2016-17 represents a $704,000 increase from the 2015-16 budget. The proposed school budget is $21.8 million, which represents a 2.85 percent increase over the current $21.1 million budget.

City officials have emphasized that the numbers will change as the council considers the proposals over the next several weeks.

At 6 p.m. April 26, they will review proposed budgets for parks and recreation, public works, human resources and the School Department. At 6 p.m. May 10, they will review budgets for assessing, city clerk, finance, debt service and administration.

At 7 p.m. May 17, the council is scheduled to take the first vote on the proposed 2016-17 municipal and school budgets; at 7 p.m. June 7, it is expected to take the second and final vote.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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