Springfield's Public Safety Agencies Seek More Money In Next City Budget
Hoping to fill vacancies and keep up with a wave of retirements, a 16 percent budget increase is being sought for the Springfield, Massachusetts police department.
Increasing the police department’s annual budget from the current $45 million to almost $53 million will cover pay raises that are due as a result of new union contracts. It would also fund police academies to try to keep the number of sworn officers at 510 and reduce reliance on overtime.
"The contracts and increases in pay are pretty much what is causing the (budget) increase," said Clapprood.
Acting Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood presented the department’s budget request for the fiscal year that begins July 1st at a hearing Monday conducted by Mayor Domenic Sarno and city finance officials.
Already this fiscal year, the police department has spent almost $4 million on overtime – double what was budgeted – because of vacancies.
"It hurts you in the long run because a lot of our vacancies are at the supervisory level, and so it is a higher level when you pay out the overtime," said Clapprood.
There are currently 18 vacancies on the police force. Clapprood said a wave of departures is expected this summer as 30 officers become eligible for retirement and have said they plan to leave.
The police department’s request for a big increase in its budget comes as Sarno has called for fiscal belt-tightening. Finance officials say there is a projected $22 million budget shortfall looming.
When it comes time to file his recommended budget with the City Council in a few months hard choices will have to be made, said Sarno.
" My style is to never cut across the board," said Sarno. " Public safety will always remain my number one priority."
Following a series of recent misconduct scandals, the police department is expected to make extensive, and likely expensive, changes to its procedures and policies for investigating and disciplining officers accused of wrongdoing.
Springfield City Council President Justin Hurst said costs can’t stand in the way of needed reforms.
" We need to make sure the resources are there," said Hurst. "We are costing taxpayers millions with police lawsuits, so to the extent we can eradicate that by implementing policies and proceedures that make sense are being done nationally by other departments then we need to do so."
A 4.3 percent increase in spending next fiscal year for the Springfield Fire Department will keep minimum staffing levels on all shifts and prevent temporary closures of fire houses, according to Fire Commissioner Bernard Calvi.