Police overtime costs running over budget

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
April 16, 2008

NORTH BRANFORD — The Police Department is expecting to run a deficit in overtime spending this fiscal year, as four employees have been out following unexpected medical problems, Chief Matthew Canelli said.

Detective Ronald Onofrio, Sgt. Chris Manner and Officer Robert Deko are still off duty, and Deputy Chief Michael Doody recently returned to work.

Canelli said he could not discuss the specific medical issues, but said they involved “major surgeries.” The conditions are not life threatening.

The department has about $7,000 remaining from the $176,000 budgeted for overtime until June 30. Canelli estimated that he will be about $35,000 over budget by the end of the fiscal year.

The department’s entire budget for the 2007-08 fiscal year is about $2.6 million.

Canelli said he briefed the Police Commission Monday night about what actions he is taking to minimize the overtime issues.

“I’ve made some personnel changes in the department to fill those shifts,” he said. “Some shifts will run light, but the public will still be served.”

Detective Sgt. Ken McNamara will fill Manner’s sergeant duties, Canelli said.

North Branford has a 23-member police force.

“There’s not a lot to draw from to fill in those empty slots,” Canelli said.

Onofrio is scheduled to return to duty next week, while Manner should be back next month, and Deko could be out until late summer.

Canelli said he is also projecting a budget deficit for the 2008-09 fiscal year after funding was cut for fuel. The Town Council has given preliminary approval to a $44 million budget for the coming fiscal year.

The Police Department’s original budget request included 30,000 gallons of fuel, Canelli said, but the amount was cut to 25,000 gallons. The department averages about 29,000 gallons a year, he said.

“We’re going to run a deficit, there’s no question about that,” he said. “Between the reduction on the amount of the gallons and the rise in fuel prices, I think my department and every other department is going to be running on a deficit.”

Interim Town Manager Michael Paulhus said that the cuts were made in the hope of better fuel efficiency, with the Police Department buying two new vehicles. But the rising cost of gasoline has made it difficult to budget across town departments, he added.

“We’re all bracing, I think, hoping that the numbers we project are going to hold, but hoping that we’ve put enough in there,” Paulhus said. “It’s a volatile market, and the price seems to be climbing and not receding, so you have to make the best guess you can and hope for the best.”

If the Police Department does go over budget for fuel, it will be able to dip into the contingency fund, Paulhus added.

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