Schenectady police miss budget on both ends
Overtime already tops budget for year
SCHENECTADY The Schenectady Police Department has spent much more than it budgeted for overtime this year, and its collection company hasn’t brought in any revenue from old parking tickets, Chief Brian Kilcullen reported at the start of his budget review Tuesday.
Fire Chief Michael Della Rocco also announced during the budget review that he will retire next year, though he has not set a date.
City Council members were most dismayed by the lack of parking ticket revenue, which they had been counting on to balance the Police Department’s budget this year.
“That was what we were looking at [for] funding an assistant police chief,” said Councilwoman Denise Brucker, recalling a compromise in which the council decided not to cut a second assistant chief because of the projected additional revenue. “Now that hasn’t happened.”
Kilcullen said bureaucratic problems delayed the launch of the ticket collection program. But he defended his department, noting two databases were merged this year so traffic control officers could access the list of ticket scofflaws. One officer ticketed cars for $2,000 in unpaid tickets in one day, he said, and $975 of that was paid that afternoon.
“The technology took some time,” he said.
The collections company is now scheduled to start work next month. But with no work history from this year to consider, the council will have to blindly guess how much money the company will bring in for the 2014 budget.
Finance Commissioner Deborah DeGenova recommended budgeting no more than 10 percent of the $2.3 million owed to the city for old parking tickets. The collections company keeps 25 percent of what it collects.
While revenue is down, the department is also spending more than budgeted because of overtime. The department had spent more than $1.1 million on overtime through the end of September. It was budgeted to spend only $750,000 for the entire year.
For next year, the budget has been increased to $850,000. Councilman Vince Riggi asked if that was realistic. Kilcullen chuckled.
“That line has never been a realistic line,” he said.
In the past, the department balanced its overspending in overtime with unspent funds in its salary line. Various police chiefs have explained they were forced to use overtime because they were understaffed.
But at the beginning of this year, 10 officers were hired to bring the department up to full strength. There is currently just one vacancy, created in August.
Despite full staffing, Kilcullen said he needed overtime to fill patrols.
“We still have the need to adequately staff the streets,” he said.
He noted the department is now budgeted for 17 fewer officers than it had a few years ago. He also noted overtime for detectives is half of what it was a decade ago, cut when administrators determined the detectives were doing on overtime what they could easily be doing during their scheduled shifts and decided they needed more supervision.
But that could be driving up the patrol division’s overtime costs, Kilcullen said.
Many detectives are now choosing to work overtime as patrol officers — and getting paid much more than a regular patrol officer — so they can maintain the high salaries they had enjoyed when they were offered overtime for detective work, Kilcullen said.
He did offer hope for next year, saying the 10 new officers would help cut down on overtime since they will no longer be in training.
“I don’t expect to see the overtime” next year, he said. “I think we’ll be closer to what we’re budgeting.”
Riggi wasn’t convinced.
“I’ve heard that before,” he said.
Council members were more amenable to the Fire Department, which regularly finishes the year under budget. The 2014 proposed budget eliminated a deputy chief, but Della Rocco urged the council to restore that position.
“I can see no reason to cut a position that is absolutely necessary,” he said, explaining the deputy oversees training and emergency medical service. “We cannot eliminate training, we just cannot.”
The department has five other deputies, who manage hazardous materials and the firefighters. Della Rocco said he could not move any of them to training.
Given that, Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo said she would “thoroughly support” funding the sixth deputy chief. But she added the Fire Department’s total budget, after raises, the sixth deputy and other costs, was increasing by $500,000. That, she said, was a difficult amount to fund.
Della Rocco proposed finding other places to cut within his department to “offset some of that cost.”
The deputy chief would be paid $79,800.
Tonight, the council will review budget lines for codes, engineering and general service administration, beginning at 5 p.m.