Gloversville police budget focus as Common Council continues 2022 budget discussions

Gloversville Police Department headquarters seen off Fontage Road in Gloversville. (File photo)

The Gloversville Common Council trimmed about $60,000 from the proposed $3.7 million city police department budget for 2022 during a nearly two-hour budget hearing Thursday, but did not address the question of whether or not to hire four additional police officers.

Thursday was the third day of budget hearings for Mayor Vince DeSantis’ $19.4 million 2022 budget proposal, which would cut the city’s tax rate by 50 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value, bringing it to $19.45 — the lowest inflation adjusted city tax rate in a quarter of a century.

City Finance Commissioner Tammie Weiterschan said after meeting with city department heads for three days that the council has trimmed approximately $100,000 from DeSantis’ proposed budget. The city’s projected total property tax levy for 2022 is $7.7 million, accounting for 39.7% of the city’s budget.

For perspective, Weiterschan said, if the council approves the budget with a tax rate of $19.45, then $100,000 worth of spending would equate to about 27 cents of that tax rate.

Weiterschan said DeSantis has proposed hiring two additional first-shift police officers, each with a starting salary of $44,637, and two additional second-shift officers with starting salaries of $45,968. She added that the health insurance and pension benefit costs, plus other contractual benefits, could equate to approximately an additional 50% cost for each officer. The commissioner said it’s difficult to calculate the total benefits cost of the four officers without knowing what health insurance plan they will choose, but she estimates the cost of the benefits for the four of them combined will add $86,000 to $101,000 to bring the first-year total cost to $267,210 to $282,210.

During the meeting, the council questioned Gloversville Police Chief Anthony “Tony” Clay regarding a $42,000 “wellness program” for officers. Clay said the wellness program is aimed toward improving officers’ physical, as well as mental health. He himself limped into the meeting on crutches, due to what he said was likely a torn plantar fasciitis in his foot. He also pointed to the potential risk of suicide among police officers as one of the reasons to support the program.

Several council members argued the program should be considered a kind of wage benefit that ought to be negotiated as part of the police union contract.

Councilman-at-large William Rowback Jr., the Republican mayoral candidate this November, called for a vote of the council on whether or not to cut the wellness program from the budget and only 4th Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio voted to keep it in.

Although Rowback called for the vote, he did not vote. Sixth Ward Councilman Wrandy Siarkowski said the abstention counted the same as voting ‘yes’ to cut the funding.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Rowback asked the council members if they would like to discuss the personnel issues in the budget, which would include the hiring of the four officers, during a special meeting without any department heads present next Friday, Oct. 15, and the council agreed. It was unclear whether this personnel discussion would be held in closed-door executive session or in an open session, although the hiring or firing of personnel is often cited as a reason local government’s go into closed door executive sessions.

Anadio was the only one of the seven members on the council Thursday who would commit to being in favor of hiring all four officers proposed in DeSantis’ budget.

Previous to DeSantis’ budget announcement, Rowback had said he would support four additional officers, but Thursday he said he wasn’t sure.

“We’re going to be discussing it more in depth,” he said.

Third Ward Councilwoman Betsy Batchelor said she’s committed to hearing all of the arguments both for and against the additional officers. Siarkowski said he’s not committing on the issue yet, while First Ward Councilwoman Marcia Weiss said, she has “no inclination” one way or the other yet.

“I’m committed to talking about it, absolutely,” Fifth Ward councilman Jay Zarrelli said. “We’re going to discuss it.”

Second Ward Councilman Art Simonds, a candidate for councilman-at-large this fall, said the council needs to discuss the issue more before making a decision.

“We’re trying to put all of the personnel issues, all of the raises and stuff, at the end,” Simonds said, “that way everybody can sit down and discuss just that instead of all of the other [spending items].”

By Jason Subik

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