Police overtime costs bust budget in Londonderry
LONDONDERRY - Three and a half months before the fiscal year ends, the Londonderry Police Department has spent about 75 percent of its staffing and overtime budget, officials said Monday night.
During this week's Town Council meeting, Gerard Dussault, police operations commander, shared data on the department's overtime trends.
Dussault said that while this past year's presidential election season hit the department particularly hard, the overall picture is encouraging.
"We're in a better place right now than we've been this time of the year for the past six years," he told the council.
By the time the fiscal year ends on July 1, police officials estimate spending $510,000 on staffing and overtime, which is about $40,000 more than was budgeted.
"That's looking on the higher end of things," Dussault said.
In prior fiscal years, the department has hit the 75 percent mark much earlier in the year.
During the previous fiscal year the department spent 75 percent of its staffing and overtime budget by the end of January 2012.
"This year, we didn't hit that milestone until March 16 (2013)," Dussault said.
As of March 16, the department had spent $355,730 of the budgeted $471,445.
Dussault attributed most of the overtime costs to the usual staff vacations and sick absences, though he said this year there have been several unusual weather events where additional staff were called in as a precaution.
"I think there's a certain distinction that's important to recognize," Councilor Tom Dolan said. "When a teacher is out sick, we call in a substitute. The school district doesn't call it overtime though, they call it substitute pay. In most cases, people don't realize police overtime costs are mostly to replace someone who's out due to vacation or sickness."
Dussault said concerns about overtime expenses haven't gone unnoticed by police staff. Over the past year, the police department formed a special committee tasked with taking a closer look at the frequency of absences due to illness.
"We've had a reduction in sick time over the past year, so we've had a good outcome with this committee," Dussault said.
Concerns about overtime expenses aren't limited to the police department, which appears to be faring better than other departments in town. Last month, acting Fire Chief Darren O'Brien told the council that overtime expenses would likely put them about $225,000 over budget when the fiscal year ends in July.