In what some are interpreting as a message to the City’s public safety departments, the City Council registered a 7-4 vote at Monday’s Council meeting to cut back police and fire overtime significantly in this coming year’s budget.
The measure was first proposed by Councillors Giovanni Recupero and Joe Perlatonda, and was aimed squarely at the police.
However, Councillor Leo Robinson amended the late petition to include police and fire in a cut that amounted to a 50 percent reduction for both.
Surprisingly, the measure passed rather easily, with only Councillors Matt Frank, Chris Cataldo, Paul Murphy and Cliff Cunningham voting against.
Robinson said the increase in overtime over last year’s budget was just too much to stomach.
“Technically, they can adjust the budget to cover what they want, but my target was to curtail the overtime,” he said. “They had a 40 percent increase in the police and a 34 percent increase in the fire over last year. Even after the cut, it was above and beyond what they got last year…I haven’t heard any complaints and I don’t think I will. There’s still more overtime money than they had last year, and they can always come back to us and request more if they think they need it.”
The police overtime budget was cut down from $261,122 to $135,061 and the fire overtime was cut down from $237,875 to $118,937. Altogether, it was a cut of $244,999.
Council President Frank said he couldn’t support the cut, mostly because it was delivered so late to the Council and wasn’t consistent with reducing crime.
“I would rather have had more conversation,” he said. “If came in late that day. With budget stuff, we like to get it early so people can look it over…I didn’t have a problem discussing it, but I didn’t vote for it that night mostly because I found out about it a few hours earlier. At the end of the day, we’re asking for more of a decrease in crime, more walking beats. We’re asking for more and I don’t understand how we cut back at the same time. I just don’t agree with holding the money over the police and fire chiefs’ heads…At the end of the day, I don’t know if it’s effective.”
Recupero and Perlatonda – frequent critics of the police – said they wholeheartedly supported the overtime cuts.
“I think it’s the best thing at this time,” said Recupero. “I don’t believe crime isn’t going down and the budget is sky high. I would like to see a review of the numbers of superior officers versus patrol officers. I think there are too many superior officers in the City and the poor patrolmen are taking the brunt of it all.”
Perlatonda said he couldn’t agree with increasing overtime when he doesn’t feel like he’s getting the results he would like.
“That was a big cut to the overtime budget and I think it was a good cut,” he said. “I don’t mind paying overtime if you’re going to reduce crime, but crime is not going down in my opinion. We had a shooting last week, a stabbing the week before and I heard they found a gun recently too. Why would we pay them all this money when nothing is getting done?”
City Manager Jay Ash said he understood the Council has been concerned about overtime and he said they would do their best to live within the limits.
“The Council has long been concerned about overtime spending so they took this action to cut the overtime,” he said. “We’ll try to live within this budget with the cut, and if we have to go back to Council for additional monies, then we will.”