Police overtime way up

Two weeks ago, supervisor-elect Kelly Myers suggested the budget line in the town’s 2012 budget is too high. It increased from $175,000 in 2011 to $230,000 in 2012. This week, town police chief Lou Barbaria agreed but said that’s no reason to worry.

“I would imagine the accountant estimated the amount that might be needed based on what we spent this year,” he said. “If we don’t have any major disasters or incidents, we won’t have to spend it.” Unspent funds are included in a fund balance, part of which is used to offset taxes when the following year’s budget is prepared.

Overtime increased significantly over 2010, when the budget was $30,000. This was due to the expansion of the department to include the village and the various bicentennial events and weather-related disasters. Myers said she didn’t think the overtime budget should be increasing, as those were one-shot deals.

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The town’s $10.7 million budget was approved Nov. 21.

She also questioned the overall increase in police salaries budgeted for next year. Police chief Louis Barbaria said the police salaries are covered by the contract, and that the increase is not entirely under the town’s control. The salary figure does include a new lieutenant position and the youth officer, which had been budgeted in a separate line.

Myers said the city of Kingston has banned police overtime in the discretionary part of the police budget. In fact, overtime needed to cover shifts for absent or vacationing officers remains in the budget, but other overtime has been eliminated. This has, at times, caused problems for the force, according to a knowledgeable source. For instance, if no detective is scheduled for a given time, and a crime occurs during that time, the investigation doesn’t start until a detective begins work. Until then, uniformed police officers may secure the scene, but do not investigate as a detective would.

Barbaria said in his conversations with Kingston Police he found they had not eliminated all overtime, though it was significantly reduced – from $720,000 last year to $420,000. Part of the reduction is accounted for by Kingston’s decision to bill the promoters of special events for any necessary police services, which has cut down on both the number of such events and police overtime. “We don’t charge for police services, as we feel these events bring tourism and money into the town,” Barbaria said.

However, this year the Kiwanis reimbursed the town $13,973 for services rendered for the annual Garlic Festival, including department of public works and police.

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