Saugerties getting a good deal on police coverage, says chief

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Police Chief Joe Sinagra gave a public presentation on the department’s reorganization and finances intended to address concerns that the department, by creating the position of captain, may be spending too much money.

Sinagra said that the department, at $2,356,485, has a lower budget than the combined town and village departments had in 2010, despite increased costs in the years since. He said the department operates very cheaply when the town’s population and area are taken into account. The detailed presentation also included a breakdown of recent budgets and a significant growth in revenue. He also said the department has been operating with fewer full-time officers than was suggested in the consultant’s report drawn up for the 2011 consolidation of the town and village departments. With the creation of captain, the department will have 24 full-time officers.

The Jan. 5 meeting, held at 6 p.m. at the senior center, was attended mainly by local officials and media. No member of the public voiced any objection to the changes.

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The 2015 police budget represents an increase of $130,000 or 5.9 percent over the previous year’s.

 

Staffing

The new position would be filled by Stephen Filak, 46, currently the department’s lone lieutenant. His salary will increase by $3,500 to $69,788. Other promotions include Detective Sgt. Ken Swart to lieutenant, with a salary of $65,838, an increase of $1,500; Detective Paul Gambino to detective sergeant with a salary of $62,588, up $2,750; and Officer Courtney Loertscher to detective with a salary of $52,889, a $2,250 increase. A new hire, David Stoutenberg, is joining the department as patrolman.

Sinagra said because the captain is considered management, Filak will not be eligible for overtime, which will mean he will make less money overall. Filak will continue to do some of the duties he did as lieutenant, which will bring down overtime for his successor in that position. Both factors will, to some degree, offset the increased cost.

Sinagra estimated the promotion could cost Filak some $35,000 in overtime, depending on how many crimes would require him to work extra hours. Why would anyone want such a job? Because the captain would be the heir apparent if Sinagra were to take a job elsewhere.

“My captain — I know from working with him for the past four years — is a lot like myself,” said Sinagra. “We are definitely not doing this job for the money. We do this job for the love of police work and for the love of our community.”

The captain’s position, an increase of $3,500, is included in the 2015 budget. The three new promotions will cost a total of $6,500. The total increase is $10,000. “My revenue stream covers that $10,000,” the chief said.

 

Comparisons

Sinagra said anyone who believes he or his top officers are being overpaid should look at the compensation of other area departments. “And if you have a valid argument, I’ll be the first to tell you your argument is valid and we’re making too much. But I can show you before you do your homework that this is not the case.”

Sinagra noted that the police department budget has represented a steady 13 percent of the total town budget.

Police spending has increased in each of the years Sinagra prepared budgets. “We did that so we could provide efficient police services. If you look at the study that was provided to the township in 2009 that was done by Fairweather Consulting, they designed a plan for the merger of the village and town police departments whose combined budgets were at $2.4 million for 2010.”

Sinagra pointed out that the police budgets for 2013, 2014 and 2015 are all less than that.

“Saugerties has 9,236 parcels of property. Dividing the police budget evenly among them, the cost is $255.36 per year, or about 70 cents a day for police protection in Saugerties.”

Projecting to 2016 and 2017, Sinagra is assuming two percent raises, based on what the Public Employee Relations Board has ruled in recent contracts. Other than salaries, Sinagra said most budget lines will flatten out. The switch to leasing police vehicles should guarantee that the equipment lines will stay close to the same.

 

Praise from Town Board

Members of the Town Board took the occasion to voice support for Sinagra’s plans and accomplishments, both recent and past.

“The police department is very different from what it used to be,” said Councilman Fred Costello. “It’s accredited, and it is important that it is run well. This will expand our ability to manage the department; it’s a management decision, and he [Sinagra] has made it happen.”

Councilwoman Leeanne Thornton said she supports the proposal, saying that under Sinagra “the department has turned around. He has brought a level of expertise and a higher level of commitment. If he says we need [the additional personnel] I respect that.”

She said Sinagra works very hard, and he is frequently present at one meeting after having attended another. He could use the extra help.

The meeting closed with a moment of silence to mark the passing of retired officer David Drescher, who died Monday morning.