Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor Village Police Department"

Sag Harbor Village Budget Continues to Propose Cuts to Police Department

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Despite impassioned pleas by Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano, last week the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees rolled out a tentative budget last week that cuts the police department to 10 officers.

If the budget is adopted in its current form, the department’s newest hire — officer David Driscoll, named 2012 Officer of the Year — will be let go.

The village board has proposed an $8,263,381 budget for its general fund for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, a 2.57 percent increase of the 2012-2013 adopted budget, which falls below the allowable 4.1 percent spending increase under the state mandated two percent property tax levy cap.

The tax rate under the budget, per $1,000 of assessed value, is set at 2.830, a 3.89 percent increase over last year. Village treasurer Eileen Touhy estimates a house valued at $795,000 in Sag Harbor Village would pay $2,249.85 in village taxes, a 0.0389 increase or $84.27.

At a public hearing last Wednesday and again at Tuesday night’s Sag Harbor Village Board meeting, Fabiano implored the board to reconsider reducing his department. The Sag Harbor Village Police Department has already lost one officer to attrition — officer Michael Gigante, who left the department last year in the midst of an ongoing contract negotiation between the village and the Sag Harbor Police Benevolent Association.

That contract is currently in arbitration. Officers in the department have been working without a contract for nearly two years.

Under the tentative budget, the department is budgeted for $1,659,795 for 2013-2014, a 15 percent decrease over last year’s budget.

Last Wednesday, Fabiano said he was willing to freeze his entire budget to save Driscoll’s position and believed there was savings from the current fiscal year with Gigante’s departure. According to a budget worksheet, in 2012-2013, the Sag Harbor Village Police Department was budgeted for $1,963,040, but is estimated to have spent just $1,522,399.62 as of April 3.

The majority of cuts in the 2013-2014 budget are found in reductions to full time police staff. That line item has been cut by $249,976 in the proposed budget, down to $1,166,910.

“The problem we have is there is continuing escalating costs in both medical, insurance and retirement,” said Mayor Brian Gilbride. “It’s nobody’s fault. It’s not your fault, it’s not our fault, it’s also not the fault of the non-police employees, because that cost is going up as well.”

The state tax cap makes it even more difficult, he said.

Fabiano noted the village board could vote to pierce the tax cap.

Gilbride replied that the village is setting aside over $500,000 to cover retirement costs for next year, and with no raises the total compensation cost for the police department has risen by 21 percent.

“What I am looking to do is find a lump of money and say here, this makes it good,” said Fabiano, noting he was originally told $185,000 was needed to save Driscoll’s position, and believes he could find about $150,000. Part of that could be found in savings from 2012-2013 — $1,522.399 of $1,963,040 has been spent to date.

Gilbride said he believes 10 officers and the chief would provide adequate police coverage for the village, and that part time officers and overtime could be implemented to cover any holes in the schedule.

However, Fabiano said his part time and overtime budgets are already stretched thin.

On Tuesday night, he implored the board to again reconsider their position. Driscoll was seated with the chief to watch as his future with Sag Harbor was debated.

“I am aware of the economic times we are in, but that should never interfere with adequate police coverage,” said Fabiano.

He added that not a single member of the village board nor the mayor has asked his opinion as a department head what losing another officer will do to the police department and its ability to service the community.

“I wonder how you can make an informed decision without this,” said Fabiano.

Fabiano said he does not believe 10 officers and the chief will be able to provide adequate coverage to the businesses, community members and school children. He added that ensuring two men are on patrol for all shifts – a practice implemented for safety reasons and for the protection of the community – would be difficult to achieve.

Two independent studies, completed by the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services, noted Fabiano, have said the village police department is understaffed as it currently stands.

Those studies have also recommended that the village’s detective – now Jeffrey Proctor – be largely freed of patrol duties so he can focus on active investigations.

“That police force has been fantastic for our village in so many different aspects you cannot weigh them by just their costs,” said Wharf Shop owner Nada Barry.

Driscoll’s fate is not yet sealed. The village board did not vote on adopting the budget at its Tuesday night meeting, as expected. Gilbride said the board would host a special meeting to adopt the budget, which must be done before May 1.

Sag Harbor Trustees Cut a Cop in Draft 2013-2014 Budget

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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.

Chief Speaks on Contract

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For Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano, the decision to enter the profession of law enforcement came after he thrived as a member of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

“I liked helping people, dealing with people,” said Fabiano, seated in his office at the police department on Division Street.

So, 35 years ago when Sag Harbor Village Police Chief John Harrington offered Fabiano the opportunity to take a part-time job with the department, complete with “an old, bent 38” caliber gun, the Sag Harbor native jumped at the opportunity.

“I love this job, I love Sag Harbor,” said Fabiano. “I would hate to see anything happen to this police department. It has been here since the 1800s.”

Some members of the Sag Harbor Village Board have recently called the future of the village police department into question. The village and the Sag Harbor Police Benevolent Association (PBA) have reached a stalemate in contract negotiations with both sides calling the other unreasonable.

For over a month now, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride has pursued proposals from other police agencies like departments in East Hampton and Southampton as well as from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department.

While village trustees have often sought comparisons in contract negotiations, Fabiano said the atmosphere this time is different and there is definitely a feeling the Sag Harbor Village Police Department is in real peril.

Losing the department would be a detriment to the community, said Fabiano, noting his officers have one of the best response times on the East End and are truly a part of Sag Harbor.

“We are involved members of this community and everyone knows us here,” he said. “My door is open 24-hours a day and everyone knows that.”

“Do we really want to lose control of our own police department,” added Fabiano, noting that communities like Greenport Village, which disbanded its police department and is serviced by Southold Police Department, could see more comprehensive police coverage with their own department.

“So is this a good direction to move in – in my opinion, no,” said Fabiano.

Fabiano said many residents have come out in support of the department.

“They can’t believe this is even being discussed,” he said. “And within those discussions a lot of people have said they also don’t think the PBA should get everything in their proposals, which I agree with too. I am not saying I agree with the village. I don’t agree with either side. I think everyone needs to bring this down a notch and come to the table to make a deal.”

The PBA asked for a 4.5 percent increase in salary, as well as for additional changes in the police contract affecting longevity, over-time, sick and vacation leave. According to PBA President Pat Milazzo, the length of the contract would be negotiated. The last two contracts were for four and six years, he said. The village responded, offering a zero percent, one-percent and two-percent increase, which was declined. Neither party has made a counter offer, although they are scheduled to come back to the table in September.

“Their salaries are a certain rate because every day they do put on a gun, put on a vest and work over the course of 24-hour days doing different shifts, which can be hard on people,” said Fabiano. “Is this a nice area? Absolutely. It’s a beautiful place to work. Can anything happen at any time? Absolutely. You just never know.”

Fabiano said he likely would have not asked for as much in an initial proposal as the PBA did.

“I think everyone bears some responsibility here,” he said. “I think everyone has to be aware of the economy. People also have to be aware of what kind of job this is, and that these people do have homes and families as well.”

“We need to come to the table and trade ideas,” Fabiano continued. “That is how we used to do it. We would trade ideas and not leave the room until it was resolved.”

 

Community Coalition to Combat Substance Abuse

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By Amanda Wyatt

In order to combat drug and alcohol abuse, you’ve got to bring in “the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker.”

This is a favorite expression of Kym Laube, the executive director of the Westhampton-based advocacy group, Human Understanding and Growth Seminars, Inc. (HUGS). On Tuesday, August 21, Laube led Sag Harbor’s second community coalition meeting at the Pierson Middle-High School library.

Thirteen others from various sectors of society — including law enforcement, education and clergy — were also present to help build the foundation of the coalition, which is very much in its infancy.

At the meeting, Laube discussed the need for the entire community to band together. Rather than blame a particular group — such as the school, the kids or the parents — Laube believed the community must realize that dealing with substance abuse is everyone’s responsibility.

“In this field, we often say, ‘we can’t blame the fish for dying after they’ve swam in the polluted pond.’ And it’s really up to us to begin to take a look at why the pond is polluted,” she said.

Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano called on the need to bring in more parents into the coalition. While some parents have expressed interest in the group, none were present at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Other participants discussed bringing in youth, as well as school security, janitors and counselors, in order to have a more comprehensive coalition.

As Laube noted, a community coalition does not focus merely on youth. Substance abuse is just as much of a problem among adults as it is among teenagers.

Still, the discussion of underage drinking and drug use at Pierson Middle-High School remained a hot topic. After the results of the New York State OASAS Survey were released in July — showing that substance use at Pierson was generally higher than average — some Sag Harbor parents were fuming.

“I received calls from parents [who] were adamant that [the results] were exaggerated lies, [saying] we were being so mean to the children,” said school board member and parent Mary Anne Miller.

Miller, along with Vice President Chris Tice, also mentioned the need to streamline the data. Currently, the results of the OASAS survey — as well as the TAP Survey and a recent survey taken by the district — should be reviewed and assessed by a professional.

“People may not realize that there have been three surveys, or that it is consistent,” said Tice.

“The bottom line is that all of the results tell us the same things, and that’s what I’m trying to get across to people,” Miller agreed. “And that’s the denial, saying we’re ‘being mean’ to the kids. And that’s huge in this town.”

Laube attributed some of the perceived denial to the stigma surrounding substance abuse.

“When we begin talking about [substance abuse] at a school, I always hear, ‘It’s a good school,’ and ‘He’s a good kid,’” she said.

“And guess what folks? Sometimes good schools and good kids make dangerous, high-risk choices,” Laube added. “And it’s our job to bring that to light and talk about it.”

Dr. Carl Bonuso, the recently appointed district superintendent, lauded Sag Harbor for being proactive.

“I think a sign of a really good school system is that they don’t just rely on giving out information; they’re willing to ask questions,” he told the coalition.

Another topic was the possibility of becoming involved with Vet Corps, a program that partners a veteran to work full-time with community coalitions.

“They really work hand-in-hand with taking a look at substance abuse, and also looking at how that affects the vet population,” Laube explained.

She noted that after San Diego, Suffolk County has the highest amount of returning veterans. Sadly, said Laube, each day a returning veteran takes his or her own life and one out of every three of those is under the influence of a substance when they do that.

Veterans involved in the program have training in the strategic prevention framework, and would be under the supervision of HUGS, OASAS or another organization. Laube said she planned to send additional information on this possibility to the coalition.

The tentative date for the next meeting of the coalition is set for Tuesday, September 25 at 5:30 p.m.

In related school news, the Board of Education will hold their next business meeting on Monday, August 27 at 7:30 p.m.

 

Sag Harbor Village Adopts Budget

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On Friday, April 16, the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees adopted an $8,229,019 spending plan for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, a 2.43 percent increase over this year’s budget with $7,703,690 earmarked to cover the village’s general operating budget and the remaining $525,329 accounting for Sag Harbor’s sewer fund.

The adoption came after board members decided to scrap plans to fund the replacement of 27 self-contained breathing apparatuses and back up air bottles for the Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department at a cost of $130,000. The department hopes to replace its entire stock of 54 air packs in the next two years as many are decades old, some hailing from the 1970s. Newer models are more efficient and not as heavy, reducing the burden on firefighters during duty, according to department officials. The total cost of the replacement would come in around $320,000.

The department has applied for a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, which will be doled out in the fall and could cover some 80 percent of the cost. Chief Robert Mitchell had hoped the village would budget it a portion of the replacement cost in case the village isn’t awarded the grant monies. Conversely, members of the village board expressed worry that budgeting the expenditure could put the grant at risk, stating they would rather buoy the department’s truck reserve this year, and address the air packs next year should the department not receive the grant.

On Friday, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said the board had decided to remove the $130,000 originally earmarked for the packs, and has instead added an additional $25,000 to the fire department’s truck reserve, bringing that expenditure up to $50,000.

Sag Harbor Village Trustees said it was a priority to keep spending down for the coming fiscal year, however after mandatory contractual expenses and other non discretionary spending was laid into the budget, the board was forced to cut a number of requests by departments, including an estimated $250,000 to $500,000 for a new fire boat and Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano’s request for an additional police officer. Currently, that department is running with 11 full-time officers, while the State of New York has reported efficiency and oversight in the police department would be better served with 14 full-time officers in the village.

The reduction of the budget leaves the final tax rate at 0.002621. According to Sag Harbor Village Clerk Sandra Schroeder, a house assessed at $795,000 can expect to see a $14.57 increase in village taxes in the next fiscal year.