STAFFORD — The Treasury Department on Monday night raised concerns about the proposed $45.4 million city budget and focused on spending on police.
Treasury Council member Matt McKenney said he saw a $50,140 increase in the Board of Selectmen’s proposed budget for a resident state trooper position that is now vacant. He wanted to know whether this position would definitely be filled in the next financial year.
First Selectman Salverio Titus said they would no longer seek to fill the Resident Trooper position, but would replace that role with a state police sergeant on a three-year contract who would have leadership experience and make the city police force more efficient.
It’s unclear if the budgeted amount is the city’s annual contribution to the state police sergeant’s salary or if it would cover the three years of the contract.
Titus added that the process of having warrants and affidavits signed by a supervisor would be quicker than it is now when a state police sergeant is in charge.
“Right now all police reports at Squad C are being sanctioned. If there’s a warrant that needs to be signed, it all goes to Squad C,” he said. “We sometimes have officers at Troop C who wait an hour or two for a sergeant to come in to sign a police report or warrant. We’ll have our own in town so our officers won’t have to go; it will be a much faster process.”
Finance Committee member David Walsh asked if a local state police sergeant would work strictly at a desk and if there would be a clear line of command between the sergeant and the local police force.
Titus said the job description was similar to Stafford Lt. Thomas Duncan, who retired in February, but more efficiently. There will be no staff cuts and the budget for the local police department has been increased by one full-time officer, he said.
“Duncan was not authorized to sign police reports,” Titus said. “He didn’t have the authority to sign off on a lot of things … so he’s just rationalizing it.”
Steven Geryk, a member of the finance committee, said he was concerned that a resident sergeant’s first priority would be to be a state police officer, leaving the city police without a officer in charge.
Titus said the state trooper sergeant assigned to the city would be present at the office Monday through Friday with no ability to be called anywhere else.
CFO Tony Pellegrino asked what the benefit of having a resident state trooper in town was.
Titus said it would be more expensive to run a larger city police department that needs 24-hour assistance.
“I know there’s a soldier assigned to the city, but the top priority is to secure everything else in the county,” Geryk said.
Finance Committee member Richard Shuck agreed, saying that prior to Duncan’s arrival, the city had State Troopers assigned to the city on Interstate 84 who used radar to catch speeders on the freeway.
On April 6, the Board of Selectmen approved a new proposed city budget of $14.9 million and said the spending increase in its first proposal of $15.5 million would not be accepted by voters.
Selectman Kurt Vail abstained, saying buildings, highways, transportation and police budgets should be reviewed for further savings.
The Board of Selectmen initially presented a budget of $15.5 million with a $1.4 million increase in spending to the Finance Committee. The increase in new spend this fiscal year is $885,837 more.
The combined city and school budget is now $45.4 million.
The proposed school budget remains untouched so far. Principal Steven A. Moccio proposed an increase in spending of 4.92%, or $1.4 million, for a total proposed school budget of just over $30.5 million for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
The budgets now go to an April 26 town meeting at the Stafford Community Center, 3 Buckley Highway before being sent to the referendum.
Deidre Montague includes the towns of Vernon and Stafford.