Police, schools' budgets come under scrutiny
Hearings ended this week but not before police Chief Shawn Boyne made his case for a $4.8 million budget for his department -- up some $200,000 over fiscal year 2011-12.
Mayor Pat Murphy's proposal is $4.633 million.
The Board of Education presented its $58.4 million request -- a $1,763,287 increase over the present year -- while pointing out it has experienced two years of "hard zero" increases, leading up to what would amount to a .44 percent increase for 2012-13.
The mayor's proposal is $57.26 million.
"We're always building today to be better tomorrow," Chief Boyne said.
He explained his request for three additional patrol officers and his hope to reinstitute one school resource officer and a canine officer.
The chief also wants all evidence to be handled by police officer rather than civilian employees.
He also made a case for pay increases for his command staff including the deputy chief and two lieutenants.
To date, Mayor Pat Murphy has not endorsed the hiring of additional officers but had endorsed the combined $20,695 in pay increases, based on the chief's description of the additional duties he has assigned his command staff.
Some council members queried Chief Boyne about whether he could accomplish goals without the extra officers. It appeared likely that issue might be on the table for council deliberations.
Budget drivers in the Board of Education budget include increases of $712,124 in salaries, $742,150 in fringe benefits and $480,227 in special education -- for a total $1,763,287 increase.
The $58,413,759 education board request would maintain class size ratios for grades K-6, as well as full-day kindergarten, two literacy coaches and a math coach -- all previously funded through an education job grant.
It would also include a fourth-grade instrumental music program and a seventh-grade music program, both of which were reinstated this school year.
The board's pay-to-play for sports policy came under fire by town councilman Joe Failla.
"Why can't we say this is a district that won't charge kids to play sports?" Mr. Failla asked. "We have this budget with a $1.7 million increase but we still continue to charge students to play sports to stay healthy."
Board Chairwoman Wendy Faulenbach defended pay-to-play.
"This is an issue that has come before the board before," she said. "We used to have a $150 fee. Now we cap at $75 for multiple sports."
"It's a balancing act," she added. "The board still allots $650,000 for sports. We have 38 sports offered."