By Kathryn G. Menu
In an effort to pare down a draft Sag Harbor Village budget for 2013-2014, trustees unveiled a new draft budget last Wednesday. In the process, they slashed what was a $8,555,361.55 spending plan — representing a 6.19 percent increase in expenditures — to $8,297,138.55, a 2.99 percent increase in spending over the approved 2012- 2013 budget of $8,056,311.01.
Of the cuts, the most debated was the reduction of a police officer from the Sag Harbor Village Police Department. With the resignation of officer Michael Gigante last year, if approved, the reduction in the police force would leave the department with 10 officers and Tom Fabiano, the department’s chief.
The police department budget was reduced by $250,848 in regards to full time personnel in the budget worksheet handed out at the village board’s meeting on Wednesday, March 6. According to Mayor Brian Gilbride, that money represents the salaries of Gigante and another officer, who would be terminated under the budget. It also reduces any anticipated salary increases for this fiscal year and 2013-2014 to zero percent. An additional $26,000 is also reduced from that budget allowing for no increases in longevity or night differential pay for police officers.
The fire department also had its budget cut, by $50,000, which was budgeted for a new vehicle. Harbors and docks also had its budget reduced by $3,000 in overtime expenses and $9,500 for equipment.
The new draft budget also adds $5,000 for new justice court staff, $5,905 for fire department liability insurance, $1,520 for ambulance liability insurance and $4,000 for the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce. It also includes an additional $15,986 to cover increased costs for employee retirement benefits, $46,000 to cover anticipated increases in police retirement benefits and $25,000 as a cushion for health care increases.
“I am a little concerned about losing a guy,” said Fabiano at the meeting. “This is all news to me. It is an extremely important thing to discuss with a department head.”
Fabiano noted two state studies completed about the police department stated the department was understaffed with 12 full time officers.
“And now you are taking another person away,” he asked.
Fabiano said instead of getting rid of an officer the village should be looking at what is creating higher health insurance and retirement costs and look at reforms that can help fix those systems.
Gilbride said police are the only village employees who do not contribute to their health care. Total retirement costs for the department is estimated in this projected budget at $509,617, he added.
“If they contribute, then that saves a guy,” asked Fabiano.
“If it is me, right now, no,” said Gilbride, adding he wants to shave another 1.5-percent off the budget to leave spending increases at around 1.5 percent in total.
“I have 11 guys who can just barely cover the shifts now, throughout the whole year, not just in the last two months,” said Fabiano. “You have to look at the whole year.”
The next budget work session will be held on Wednesday, March 20 at 4 p.m.