Milford Finance Commission Discusses FY2014 Budget

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cityhall21111At public hearings held Tuesday, June 11 and Wednesday, June 12, 2013, the City of Milford Finance Commission, chaired by Councilman Skip Pikus, held public hearings on the budget for 2014 presented to the commission by City Manager, Richard Carmean. The budget presented to the commission was balanced, with proposed expenditures equaling proposed revenue, and totals $41 million. There are no tax or utility rate increases included in the proposed budget.

Jeff Portmann, Finance Director for the city, went through the budget page by page as commission members and council members were permitted to ask questions about items included. During discussion about the police department budget, Chief of Police Keith Hudson was asked about the need to purchase new police cars.

“We are leaning towards purchasing the SUV type vehicles rather than the Charger’s we purchased recently, as we have found the Charger’s to be too small,” Chief Hudson explained. When asked why the vehicles were too small, Chief Hudson stated that today’s police car, with all the technology required, such as computers and printers, were more like “climbing into the cockpit of an airplane” than a car. Councilman Garrett Grier asked what the lifespan of the average police car is, and Chief Hudson said they try to phase them out after 80,000 miles.

“This is a standard rotation of vehicles that has been going on for 30 years or more,” said Mr. Carmean, who served as Chief of Police before becoming City Manager. “Some of the council may recall when we decided to hold off buying vehicles one year, and it came back to bite us. The maintenance costs were so significant that it was not cost effective to wait.” Councilman Pikus stated that he recalled the city ended up purchasing four vehicles the following year.

Discussion continued regarding the various city departments, with council and commission members requesting explanations from each department. Milford’s Electric Department requested approval to purchase a truck with an extension of 100 feet, and the council asked many questions about the purchase, including whether the vehicle would fit in the current garage or if there would need to be alterations.

“It will fit, barely, but it will fit,” said Rick Carmean, Electric Superintendent. “The doors are fine and the new truck will allow us to reach areas we currently have difficulty getting into.”

Mr. Portmann explained that although costs are going up at landfills, the city was taking less trash there due to the recycling and yard waste programs, so there was no need for a rise in trash costs.

“I think the city offers a pretty good deal when it comes to trash service,” said Councilman Bryan Shupe. Mr. Carmean agreed, stating that people outside the city paid 25 to 30 percent more and were not getting 60 percent of the service offered in Milford.

Other discussions centered around increased postage costs and increases in employee benefits. The proposed budget also included a 3 percent pay raise for city employees.

Once Mr. Portmann finished reviewing the proposed budget, Councilman Pikus presented several items that had been requested from city departments. These items included a 15-passenger van and a Parks Superintendent position for Parks and Recreation, as well as an administrative assistant for Mr. Carmean. Because these items were not included in the budget, discussion began regarding what areas could be cut to allow for these additional needs.

Councilman Dirk Gleysteen stated that he had done some research and had discovered that although the city budget had only grown by 25 percent over the past ten years, it appeared that the police department budget had grown by 70 percent. This statement brought a heated response from Councilmen Doug Morrow and Owen Brooks. Councilman Morrow chairs the Police Commission for the city. Councilmen Morrow and Brooks wanted confirmation that the figures provided by Councilman Gleysteen were accurate before discussing any cuts to the police department budget.

In an effort to resolve the budget shortfall, Mr. Emory and Mr. Carmean withdrew their requests for the 15-passenger van and the administrative assistant. However, Councilman Pikus felt that it was important for Mr. Emory to get the Parks Supervisor since his department had grown significantly over the years.

“The new signs we plan to install on Route 1, the addition of parks and tourist attractions in town have added to his workload significantly,” Councilman Pikus said. “We need to figure out a way to get this position funded for him.” Councilman Gleysteen felt that the police budget was the best place to look for cuts, while Councilmen Brooks and Morrow disagreed. However, Chief Hudson agreed to cut $26,800 from the police budget, which left $21,200 remaining to fund the new Parks and Recreation position.

When the commission reconvened on Wednesday evening, the tone was decidedly less antagonistic as the commission decided to refer the questions Councilman Gleysteen had regarding the fast-growing police budget at an upcoming City Council workshop, where the Police and Finance Commission could take comments from the public and allow Mr. Portmann time to review the figures presented by Councilman Gleysteen. The budget must be presented to city council at the June 24 council meeting as it takes effect on July 1.

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