The Verona Township Council began the task of assembling its annual budget with a Monday night workshop, which included proposed budgets for the Verona Police Department and Office of Community Service.
Verona plans to decrease its 2013 budget by about $100,000 from 2012. The 2013 budget, which is still under review and discussion, will be around $21,310,234, while the 2012 budget was $21,411,838
“The budget is an on-going effort and a year-round process,” said Township Manager Joseph Martin. “We are half-way through the budget process. The next major milestone is the introduction of the budget on April 1.”
Verona Chief of Police Douglas Huber began the workshop by presenting the proposed numbers for the police budget, which is often the largest part of a municipal budget.
Huber discussed the reason the proposed dispatch budget should increase from $262,795 in 2012 to $355,618 for 2013, attributing the increase to salaries and wages for dispatchers.
“That's a lot of money,” Huber said, “However, what we have done the last two years is try to keep professional dispatchers at the desk 24 hours a day.”
The department currently has four full-time dispatchers and six per-diem (part-time) dispatchers. Having a dispatcher on duty at the desk will save money over having a sworn police officer, said Huber.
“A policeman at the desk makes between $50 to $70 an hour,” said Huber. “A full time dispatcher makes somewhere between $20 and $35 an hour at the desk and a per-diem dispatcher makes between $15 and $21 an hour.”
The proposed Verona Police Department budget will decrease the regular salaries and wages for police officers from $3,117,275 in 2012 to $3,063,451 in 2013, which includes 26 full-time police officers, 17 patrolman and 10 supervisors. Also included in that budget is the cost for hiring two additional police officers.
Huber, who has been with the Verona Police Department for more than 30 years, said at its high point the department has had 33 officers.
“We are down to 26 officers now,” he said. “It's a number that's workable but very difficult to keep going giving the service and accomplishing all the goals we have for the department with 26 men.”
The department will be losing between one and three officers to retirement this year, he said.
The council weighed in with some ideas for potential savings or revenue for the department.
“We are looking at upgrading our 9-1-1 platform with another town since Verizon is no longer supporting that platform,” said Martin, who said he sees it as a potential revenue opportunity.
Members of the council floated around the idea of saving money on dispatchers by sharing the responsibility with another town.
“Dispatch is a natural shared service but I would never recommend we give up dispatch responsibility,” said Martin. “The fundamental purpose of a police department is to patrol and respond promptly and it all begins with good dispatch.”
Jim Cunningham, Director of Community Services for Verona, presented his numbers for several departments including health, senior citizens, recreation and pool.
Cunningham went into detail about various budget items including recreation equipment, field maintenance, senior citizen busing, recreation department salaries and the town pool.
“The pool is definitely an option even if the Shore is not an option anymore,” he said.
Cunningham also discussed anticipated revenue for the pool saying the 2012 budget anticipated $648,576 in revenue and actually earned $707,467, which may be a record for the pool, said Cunningham. This year the pool anticipates they will earn $660,114.
Monday’s budget workshop will available for the first time on the VTV network.
The next workshop meeting will be held on Monday, March 11 at 7 p.m.
Copies of the entire budget may be purchased from the municipal clerk's office for $12, which covers printing costs, said Martin.
The budget items presented on Monday are as follows:Department 2012 2013 Police $4,024,023 $3,991,216 Recreation $698,038 $714,457 Health $203,752 $209,267 Local Assistance $3,100 $3,100 Senior Citizens $50,000 $50,000 Pool $648,576 $660,114 Pool Anticipated Revenue $648,576 $660,114