Second vote fails to restore money for police overtime in Derry
DERRY - At the latest Town Council budget review workshop last Thursday, Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores asked the council to reconsider the $50,000 cut it made to the police department's overtime budget at an earlier budget session.
Katsakiores was unable to attend the earlier session, where the council voted 4-2 to move forward with a police department budget of $9,081,818, cutting $50,000 from the overtime line item requested by Chief Ed Garone.
In the re-vote, Katsakiores joined councilors Brad Benson and Neil Wetherbee in opposing the budget cut, but it was not enough to change the bottom line.
Katsakiores said she was concerned the overtime cut would leave the police department unprepared in case of an emergency.
"The terrorists left a bomb in Boston, and that's 30 miles from our front door," she said. "The terrorists also went to Seabrook to the fireworks place to get the black powder, and we have (a fireworks store) less than one mile from here (in Londonderry). I feel that it is important that our police department and our first responders are prepared."
Councilor Mark Osborne said that when he was elected in March, many voters expressed concerns about rising property tax rates in the town.
"Whenever I've made the motion for a cut in a budget or supported a motion for a cut in a budget, it has not been my intent to besmirch or downplay the services we receive," said Osborne. "I think we have excellent police services, and I think we have excellent fire services."
Osborne said that during the recent election campaign, many of the residents he spoke with said they were afraid that they would no longer be able to afford their homes because of property taxes.
"I made the promise to ask tough questions of all the budgets that came before us about what we can afford and need, not just what we want, and I'm going to continue to do that," said Osborne.
Wetherbee said the cut to the police overtime budget amounts to just over 1 cent on the town's property tax rate and that much of the increase in the tax rate is the result of increases in school spending, which the Town Council does not control.
"The fact is, anyone who thinks we are going to cut taxes in this room here, they are either misinformed or disingenuous, because we only control one-third of the budget," Wetherbee said. "... Cutting police overtime for a penny and a half? The cost does not outweigh the risk."
Osborne said those who disagreed with Wetherbee were not misinformed or disingenuous.
"I don't think we have to go there to have a budget discussion," he said. "Come on."
Councilor Al Dimmock said Katsakiores asked for a new vote on the police overtime budget because she was not present for the original vote, but added that he did not want to get into discussing issues that had already been addressed during the budget process.
"We're not here to discuss the budget all over again," he said.