Monday, March 15, 2010

My suggestion to cut and reprioritize the TMO budget

The budget of the Town Manager's office was discussed tonight:The first item that drew attention was a favorite of Anne Giddings - overtime. The defense offered by the TM was that overtime has been reduced from $26,000 three years ago to only $14,000 today. Frankly though, the overtime in the TMO was a lesser concern to me. I had another suggestion tonight for the TMO. I said something along these lines:

In an effort to:

1) minimize taxes and spending; and
2) align tax dollars with services for taxpayers...

What would be the impact if the Council:

1) increased the school budget by $50,000 (or one teacher)
2) increased police overtime by $25,000*
3) reduced overall spending by $30,000

by way of the Council defunding the position of:

Personnel Director / Assistant Town Manager?


The response from staff was puzzling. Two points were made:

1) Ten years ago the former TM spent $50,000 to negotiate the union contracts; and

2) If employee qualifications are a concern, executive session is a better forum for that discussion.

I didn't bother continuing the discussion, but offer a few thoughts here:

1) Union contracts are typically negotiated every three years. So even with additional unions and increases in attorney fees, I still suspect the attorney fees - incurred one of every three years - would be less than the $315,000 for three years of salary for the PD / ATM position; and

2) I didn't mention employee qualifications. I simply asked about the need for the position of PD / ATM. Similarly, I suggested the currently unoccupied position of Assistant Town Planner / Zoning Enforcement Officer also be defunded... at least for six months. Then, if necessary, someone could be hired on January 1, 2011.


I think my suggestion to minimize taxes & spending and to focus tax dollars on services that benefit taxpayers makes sense.

Tim White

* Several people have told me that last week alone there were two officers who sent out their resumes and were offered police jobs within 24 hours. And does anyone think it'll stop there? I certainly don't. And barring dramatic changes, I expect more officers to do the same with significant increases needed in the overtime budget.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tim, you make a good case for shifting some town staff funds to school and police services.

It’s crunch time, and every agency has to tighten their belts, including town management. No one should be exempt.

Anonymous said...

The assistant town planner, Rebecca Augur has just left for a job in industry. There is minimal activity occurring in planning and zoning now. Why do we need to rush to fill her job per statements of Mr. Zullo?

Is it possible to survive for 6 months or longer with the position unfilled? Would it be possible for Mr. Voelker to take on some of the duties?

Just because the position is in the budget, doesn't mean that we can't take advantage of this opportunity to save badly needed funds.

Anonymous said...

What does Mr. Zullo do as “Personnel Director” anyway? Seems like he doesn’t do a very effective job, with all the problems in the police dept and DPW. Now Milone has to justify the $103,000/ year we pay to his old crony.

Anonymous said...

"* Several people have told me that last week alone there were two officers who sent out their resumes and were offered police jobs within 24 hours."

As I've said in the past, if we spend the money to train and educate these guys, they are more appealing to other towns. Cheshire spent at least $10,000 to train EACH of these people and now another town is going to hire them since 95% of their training was covered by someone else. (every dept requires some sort of inhouse training). This not only applies to officers but dispatchers too. We need to ask ourselves did we get our monies worth out of their training?

If these 2 officers decide to leave, Cheshire PD will have 2 positions within the scheduled shifts that need to be covered. That is 2 positions that need to be covered with overtime FOR NO LESS THAN 6 MONTHS!!! That is a long and expensive amount of time considering the hiring process and time at the academy. 6 months of overtime will far exceed the cost of a modest pay increase across the board to keep these officers in town.

Before the question is raised of leaving these positions vacant, every property owner is affected by a cut in police personel. Less officers cause longer response times and less patrols on the road. Less officers also hurt our ISO rating that determines local property insurance rates. We currently have the minimum staffing required by their standards. Losing a few officers can cause everyones rates to increase

We really need to look long and hard at keeping personel that we have invested in to get the most return.

Anonymous said...

how about eliminating some of the vice and assistant principals in the boe. Those positions seem to have inflated over the last 20-30 years faster than any in the overall educational systems in the U.S. And what about secretaries? How many are there in the BOE? That position has essentially disapeared in the industrial sector with the advent of word processing and publishing technology. The time has come where municipal jobs can no longer be a safe haven for union positions where merit evaluations are non-existent.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous March 16, 2010 11:39 AM said...

"...We really need to look long and hard at keeping personel that we have invested in to get the most return."

This is my problem with the current TC majority - ideology trumps an understanding and appreciation of the 'big picture.'

Anonymous said...

If police employees leave can't we seek qualified people to replace them? I'm sure with this economy and the work that is required in this town that we can attract qualified people.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:01 said, This is my problem with the current TC majority - ideology trumps an understanding and appreciation of the 'big picture.'

Not sure what you mean.

The Big Picture is that we're in a serious recession, people have lost jobs, and towns, businesses, and households everywhere have to cut.

Our need to carefully cut spending and get the most for our dollar is not 'ideology', it's common sense.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous March 16, 2010 1:25 PM said...

"If police employees leave can't we seek qualified people to replace them? I'm sure with this economy and the work that is required in this town that we can attract qualified people."

Really? And who do you think is going to want to come to Cheshire P.D. with the current strife there? And certainly not Dispatchers, who would then be the lowest paid in the state! Police Officers have to be certified by the State of Connecticut and re-certified every three years, so they're not just out there for the picking.

Anonymous said...

It seems that the worst thing anyone could wish for is maintaining the status quo at the PD. Turnover is a good thing. A bunch of new faces and new mindsets could go a long way to reducing operating costs. Turnover could save on salary, pension, and medical dollars associated with the PD.

All that whining about the costs of training newbies is just union hype. Reality would seem to dictate that police officers must re-qualify and re-qualify and re-qualify to remain qualified. If police only need training once in a career it would amaze many citizens. How does continuing training cost compare to initial cost of training anyway? Like over the first 5 or 10 years of an employee's tenure?

Anonymous said...

"All that whining about the costs of training newbies is just union hype."

Actually, no. I am very anti-union. I would rather see unions thrown out of town all together. Unions served a purpose in 1910, but not in 2010.

"Police Officers have to be certified by the State of Connecticut and re-certified every three years..."

You are correct that police officers need to be certified by the Connecticut Police Academy. There is no re-certifacation process. If an officer leaves a department, their certifacation is good for 2 years from the last day worked unless it is revoked.

" If police only need training once in a career it would amaze many citizens."

They are required to attend so many hours per year of in service training. This can be time at the firing range, tazer instruction, software instruction, driving course, non lethal apprehension (think Mike Evans), legal briefment, physical fitness, etc. Officers can face disipline if they fail to meet the required number of hours per year.

"If police employees leave can't we seek qualified people to replace them?"

We could try, but the reason that most officers leave Cheshire is the pay. Most departments pay their new hires the same as our 5 year officers. Huge difference! Some of the young guys that get hired here do so to get trained and some experiance and when the department that they want has an opening, they take it. That is when these guys finally buy houses and settle down. Ask any young officer in Cheshire if he owns or rents. Those that rent will tell you it is because they do not know how long they will be here. It's a beautiful thing that we train them, pay them, give them overtime, insurance, uniforms, and they look forward to working elsewhere and paying taxes to someone else.

"It seems that the worst thing anyone could wish for is maintaining the status quo at the PD."

Really? Are you confusing the officers with the chief? We have alot of good officers who do a good job for this town. It takes time to learn their job and to learn the town they are protecting. Having high turnover results in innocent lives put at risk. Officers that do not know their way around town take longer to render assistance.

Besides, if new employees are better, how many times have you been replaced? Would that piss you off?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous March 16, 2010 4:41 PM said...

"It seems that the worst thing anyone could wish for is maintaining the status quo at the PD. Turnover is a good thing. A bunch of new faces and new mindsets could go a long way to reducing operating costs. Turnover could save on salary, pension, and medical dollars associated with the PD.

All that whining about the costs of training newbies is just union hype. Reality would seem to dictate that police officers must re-qualify and re-qualify and re-qualify to remain qualified. If police only need training once in a career it would amaze many citizens. How does continuing training cost compare to initial cost of training anyway? Like over the first 5 or 10 years of an employee's tenure?"

Wrong, wrong, wrong! You know nothing of what you speak. This is a legitimate management concern, NOT union hype. The turnover of newly certified officers became so bad that the State Police Officer Standards & Training Council had to regulate it by imposing a time period before another department could "poach" an officer away for their department. More than half the first year is spent initially training and certifying a new police officer. In fact, it's almost two years before a new hire feels settled in.

Officers must be recertified every three years and each year in between, credit hours must be earned in order to have enough by the end of the three year period. Then the process starts all over again.

Excessive turnover is NOT good because of the wasted time and expense, to include uniforms, equipemnt, etc. Probably more important is that that staff needs to have sufficient depth. Training is good, but without experience, you are just looking to step into liability problems. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Anonymous said...

Just ask why in the Public Works Dept they scheduled overtime and an employee must sign up for for it two weeks in advance.

Anonymous said...

If police employees leave can't we seek qualified people to replace them? I'm sure with this economy and the work that is required in this town that we can attract qualified people.
- QUALIFIED people are certified trained people. Why not keep the ones we have.... AND certified officers dont want to go to Cheshire. Poor work conditions, low pay, no movement or advancement, no training.

Anonymous said...

"It's a beautiful thing that we train them, pay them, give them overtime, insurance, uniforms, and they look forward to working elsewhere and paying taxes to someone else."

What is the starting pay of an officer in Cheshire? How about surrounding towns?

If any of these officers want to leave I doubt they'll apply in places like Waterbury where they'd have to buy all of their own uniforms and obviously the element of danger is much, much greater.

I'm sure there'd be a lot of trained officers from Waterbury that would love to work in Cheshire.

Maybe it's time that people realize how good they've got it. The grass isn't always greener somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

waterbury is much more dangerous?
how ignorant. Dangers in police work are not isolated or more common in cities. The majority of officers killed in ct are from smaller communities. Back up is less available and farther away. Cheshire has lost officers to
hamden (2), meriden, state police, farmington, stratford. All of which make more money. 1 officer lost to hamden received a 7k base salary increase by moving to the next town. Policework is dangerous period. That's like saying fires aren't as hot in small towns.

Anonymous said...

9:41 You sound like a cop with an attitude. Hopefully you're one of the ones who is applying elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

10:46, he's just stating the facts, why the personal attack?

Anonymous said...

Tim, lets stick to facts if we can. Someone told you? Well, is it rumor or is it fact? Some one can tell me that we are about to be attacked by UFO's but I am not going down to the storm shelter in less I verify the accuracy of that.
Verify the information instead of wipping people into a frenzy, and making budget decisions, based on rumor alone. Or, if you have a source on the police department, and therefore do not need to verify the info., be upfront about it and say so.
Otherwiise you are just like Chicken Little running around telling everyone the sky is falling, the sky is falling....

tim white said...

12:20... cops are leaving. That is reality.

And FWIW, this is the same chicken little who told staff two years ago that police were leaving for the same reasons they are leaving today.

At that time the Administration Spin Machine was working overtime and offering all sorts of strawman reasons for police departures. And they chose to ignore me.

Then in August of last year I mentioned the hostile work environment (particularly at the PD) that existed with Town Gov't... again, I was the sole Council member to broach this topic and most other Council members praised the Administration.

Then the PD had a unanimous 'no confidence' vote and the rest is history.

I'm comfortable providing the level of information that I provide.

Anonymous said...

"I'm sure there'd be a lot of trained officers from Waterbury that would love to work in Cheshire."

If they did, they would apply. We dont pay as much as Waterbury. If a certified officer applied for a position in the PD, wouldn't it make sense that we would hire this person? We dont because they dont apply.


The last "certified" officer hired in Cheshire was officer Rizzo and he came from the Florida State Police. He moved here to be closer to his parents. Prior to Rizzo, I do not remember any certified officers being hired. We cannot say "only hire certified officers" because we do not pay enough to get their attention.

Anonymous said...

This is 2010. Look at the unemployment rate and other towns are cutting their budgets etc. They would line up at the door for a job in Cheshire..

Anonymous said...

In theory yes, they would line up at the door, but at what cost? Posting announcements of openings costs money. Having officers available for physical agility tests cost money. Backround checks cost money. Interviews costs money. Training (certified and non certified) costs money. Why keep spending?

As it is with the dispatchers, if 1 calls out sick or takes vacation time, a police officers has to fill their spot. This is more overtime. If a dispatcher leaves the dept, an officer has to fill their spot. MORE OVERTIME. New hire dispatchers cannot come in off the street and start working the next day. These people need state, federal, and local training. This is more time and money. Keeping the personel that we have already invested in only makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Everyone is replaceable and the CPD is not immune to this. Of course replacements cost money to some extent. This may be a situation where the Town of Cheshire may be willing to pay more to replace the sour grapes at the CPD for more qualified and fresh personnel.

If there's truly a poison pill attitude throughout the CPD then replacing the chief is not going to solve the problems at the CPD.

Whenever you have a group of employees all blaming the leadership and not offering ideas to improve the department then the problem is with the rank and file as well. True leaders will find ways to make things better. But based on what we've been reading and hearing from the CPD nobody below the level of Chief has stepped up to help address the issues.

Being an effective leader goes beyond pointing the finger. So, what does that tell everyone about the CPD? Do we truly have the best qualified people working there? Are there no leaders amongst the CPD that can step up and help make changes either with the current or a new police chief?

This may not be popular with the CPD but one option would be to fire everyone at the CPD and higher qualified, non-tainted officers with fresh attitudes and the necessary skills to help make the CPD a a beacon for law enforcement everywhere.

I'd be willing to pay more for this. It seems the that the CPD has been slowly bleeding to death via a thousand paper cuts since these issues have persisted for years. Rip off the band-aid and cure it once and for all.

Anonymous said...

What a moron.

Stupid idea.

Stupid waste of money.

Get a clue, a brain, and a life

Anonymous said...

hey 4:50 is moron the only word you know how to use? I can tell this is a cop because they all talk like that: everyone is moron or stupid. the cpd doesn't do jack shit all day.they play cop. they are overpriced meter maids. a fifth year patrol officer makes 60,000 a year. not bad for writing out a traffic ticket. cut the theatrics you moron.

Anonymous said...

Naw, I think 4:50 was someone from town hall who went home early, responding to Tim's original post on cutting Zullo's position and using the funds where more needed.

They'll have to do better than "moron" and "stupid" to justify Zullo's $103,000/ year in this tight economy.

Anonymous said...

9:41 Anonymous said...
waterbury is much more dangerous?
how ignorant

To 12:00 - I think it's 9:41's words above that are more like a personal attack...and how do you know it's a "he"?? unless of course...hmmm

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:08 AM. They said that they hated to come to work. So that's a problem that should be resolved. Change your attitude or find another job. If a person is unhappy with his work then he/she is not productive and it effects others. It might cost more but in the long run we get a better PD.

Anonymous said...

12:20... cops are leaving. That is reality

Can you please tell us how many police officers have left the department? How is that different from other years? How does Cheshire's rates compare with other towns?

There will always be some retirements, people who move, people who get a promotion with another department. I am curious, since you are so certain, to look at the statistics to determine how big this problem really is.

Anonymous said...

fire everyone at the CPD and higher qualified, non-tainted officers with fresh attitudes and the necessary skills to help make the CPD a a beacon for law enforcement everywhere---
WOW, welcome to Fantasyland. can you please breakdown the financial impact this will have on the town. can you also please advise how contacts within law enforcment and the community will NOT suffer by replacing an entire department. This was a well thought out concept. You should run for TC, maybe as an independant????