Overtime and raises received across-the-board cuts when the Derry Town Council reviewed and adapted Town Administrator Galen Stearns’ proposed 2016 budget.
The cuts to overtime (OT) and step raises were part of an overall cost-cutting effort by members of the Council to reduce the tax rate. In a split vote, the Council approved a budget that will cut the town portion of the tax rate by $1.21. The discussion also resulted in the most community members being escorted out by police that evening.
Councilor David Fischer proposed the overtime reductions as an alternative to further staff reductions. At the May 19 meeting, the majority of the Council approved trimming eight fire positions, four Police positions and two Department of Public Works positions, in addition to the position of Human Resources Director.
Fischer’s proposal was across the board, and was as follows:
• Emergency Management, Stearns proposed OT $18,905, cut to $6,000, saving $12,905;
• Tax Collector, proposed $12,839, cut to $6,250, saving $6,589;
• Fire, proposed $775,692, cut by 50 percent, saving $339,012;
• Dispatch, $84,000, cut to $38,000, saving $46,000;
• Police, $716,581, cut to $365,781, saving $350,820;
• Highway, $124,000, cut to $63,500, saving $60,600;
• Transfer Station, $31,350, cut to $15,000, saving $16,350;
• Buildings and Grounds, $14,450, cut to $6,500, saving $7,950;
• Recreation, $9,967, cut to $2,500, saving $7,467; and
• Parks, $11,389, cut to $5,000, save $6,389.
Fischer said his cuts were based on last year’s approved budget. The total savings would be $951,750.
“Dave put a lot of thought into that,” Councilor Richard Tripp said. “But when a department hits its budget maximum, police are going to stop showing up, fire is going to stop showing up, and DPW workers are going to stop showing up.
Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores observed, “If we’re cutting OT in police and fire and we just ‘got rid’ of eight firemen, what are we going to do if there’s a mass emergency? Do we have the bodies?”
“You live within your budget,” Council Chair Tom Cardon responded.
A woman in the back shouted, “You are taking away everything I love about this town!” She was escorted out along with a male companion.
Councilor Joshua Bourdon asked the perennial question, “Has anyone up here taken it on themselves to meet with department heads? Have you met with the Town Administrator or (Chief Financial Officer) Susan Hickey to see how this will work out?”
Stearns, whose original budget had called for a $25,000 trimming of police overtime, reminded the Council that police OT is offset by revenue. When the department does “details” for other towns or private industry, the Derry department is reimbursed.
“If you cut the OT, you’ll reduce the revenue,” Stearns said. “They won’t be able to do the details.”
“I am talking about the impact on safety,” Bourdon said. He said he was concerned that overtime worked that is not details is usually because someone is injured or ill.
“This is another random number pulled out of thin air,” Bourdon said of Fischer’s figures.
Former Councilor David Milz stood up and said, “I am going to throw myself out of this meeting. You are done – and I am going to run against you,” he told Cardon.
Community member Michael Gendron said, “You should be ashamed,” and was escorted out by police. Former Councilor Neil Wetherbee tried to speak and was also escorted out.
Tripp observed that the cuts to police overtime seemed too drastic to him and he asked for a cut of $150,000 instead of the $350,820. The Council voted unanimously to amend Fischer’s proposal to cut the $150,000 instead of the larger cut.
Tripp also expressed concern about the DPW cuts and recommended that the town stay at last year’s approved amount of $124,000. That did not pass.
The other overtime cuts passed, the majority in split votes.
Cardon made the motion to eliminate the step raises by the following departments and amounts:
• Executive, $2,209;
• Finance, $16,423;
• Planning, $320;
• Police, $48,445;
• Public Works, $7,637;
• Town Clerk, $12,285;
• Wastewater, $1,153; and
• Cable, $2,388.
The cuts in step raises all passed in split votes, 4-3.