SWL: Police Chief pushes for staff increase

by beth on January 8, 2018

Town Meeting is months away, but Town officials are already busy working on the budget for Fiscal Year 2019. Last week, Selectmen heard Police Chief Ken Paulhus’ request for $80,000 to hire a new officer.

According to Southborough Wicked Local, it would complete the plan to add three officers over three years. The board was split on supporting the expense:

“The union first approached me with this plan,” Paulhus said. “They felt the manpower was insufficient and we had to come up to a certain level to provide a little bit more for their safety and the safety of the citizens.”

If approved, the officer will be the last one hired under the plan. It will bring the department to 19.5 officers, 16 on patrol.

The article included discussion during last month’s preliminary budget presentation by Treasurer Brian Ballentine. He recommended against any new or additional Town personnel hours: 

While the total budget numbers haven’t been released, town department requests are up $597,000, or 5.53 percent, and the school’s budget requests are up $878,000, or 3.13 percent. Along with increasing debt, the town is also down $350,000 in free cash. . .

The tax rate increase is estimated to be 8.24 percent, or an average of $793. The town can increase that amount under the town’s Proposition 2 1/2 levy limit, according to Ballantine.

To get down to 5 percent, about $1.4 million needs to be cut, and for 3 percent, $2.2 million needs to be cut.

Tough decisions will have to be made to get the costs down, Selectman Bonnie Phaneuf said.

“I am going to stand firm on any additional hours at this point,” she said. . .

“At this point I don’t know I can say ’100 percent yes’ to it,” [Selectman Brian Shea] said during Ballantine’s presentation. “It needs to go through the vetting process.”

Last week, Selectmen Chairman Dan Kolenda said he supports the new officer adding the department has problems when officers are on vacation or need to take a leave.

For the full article, click here. The budget has yet to be finalized. The Advisory Committee is scheduled to review it at their meeting on Wednesday night. But I’d be very surprised if a final version and vote are resolved this week.

Last year, Advisory and Selectmen hashed out budget cuts two weeks before Town Meeting.* That was too late to include the final version and Advisory’s recommendations in the printed Warrant. This summer, the committee evaluated its performance. Some members hoped to improve the process going forward. The fact that they didn’t have to grapple with two special Town Meetings this year should help.

*Updated (1/8/18 9:39 am): In re-reading the post, I worried that “hashed out budget cuts” may be misinterpreted. The cuts were to sections of the proposed budget. In the end, the overall budget was an increase from the year prior.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 SB Resident January 8, 2018 at 10:52 AM

There’s lots of data out there on officer to population ratios. Out town is small so we don’t get the same economies of scale but at the same time we are extremely low crime.

Not sure if this site is using the 19.5 or 16 number from above, but either way, Shrewsbury came in at 12.2. (We have a population very close to 10k.) A 19.5 would put us on par with some much higher crime towns. I think we can live without another officer.

http://www.governing.com/gov-data/safety-justice/police-officers-per-capita-rates-employment-for-city-departments.html

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2 Alan January 8, 2018 at 2:10 PM

Until I stop seeing the officer parked and texting in the Kaz parking lot I would agree that we have enough officers for now as well.

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3 Frank Crowell January 8, 2018 at 2:35 PM

Anytime a union claims that a personnel increase is needed, I tend to immediately disagree, but since we have 18 year olds having alcohol parties with teenagers from surrounding towns (and some portion of the adults in town who think guilty parties should be dealt with lightly), we probably need additional police staff to keep us safe and save the lives of innocent people.



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4 D. McGee January 8, 2018 at 2:48 PM

So predictable…I could have written that for you. Can’t think of a single moment in my 20 years in Southborough I didn’t feel safe.

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5 Southborosnow January 8, 2018 at 3:42 PM

I’ll tune into the Southborough police scanner once in a while and after listening a bunch of times, I agree to increase the staffing of the police department. And just because there’s low crime, doesn’t mean there isn’t other things going on in town. I mean just a 1 car accident in town can tie up officers on duty with paperwork, blocking a lane of traffic and waiting for a tow truck, now add in a house burglar alarm going off across town at the same time and now maybe there is a delay or just 1 officer is going to that burglar alarm – alone, when there should be two officers in case he or she does actually encounter a suspect. Officer safety and Southborough safety- I’m for more police. As a taxpayer that’s one thing I don’t mind.

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6 Djd66 January 8, 2018 at 7:43 PM

SoboSnow –

Please explain to me how our current police force is not safe? Has anything every happened to any officer in Southborough because we do not have enough police officers on staff?

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7 resident January 9, 2018 at 9:54 AM

But, I bet you will vote a huge budget for the schools. The most waste in this town is in the schools. There are huge salaries, and waste everywhere you turn. However, you won’t vote a small portion of that for the Police Officers in this town to be safe while on patrol. One accident, emergency, etc. can cripple the department when they are working 2 to a shift. I would give money to the Police/Fire over the schools any day at this point. At least they show to be more fiscally responsible and the schools do not.

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8 Frank Crowell January 9, 2018 at 1:33 PM

Could not agree more. Two under age drinking parties and an accident on Rt 9 all in one night would be a heck of a problem. Then we have the schools where an embezzler can operate for 18 months before being discovered. What was that amount – oh yea – $300K.

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9 djd66 January 9, 2018 at 2:11 PM

For the record, I do not vote for any huge budgets and would like to see if we can maintain rather than make the police force larger.

Again, I would really like to know how any police officer in this town is not safe or less safe than any other town?

Based on the size of our town – 2 people on patrol seems about right. If there were ever an issue that they needed assistance – they can call for mutual back up for any of the neighboring towns. (like they did for the party on Sears Road. In addition, they can call for help from the state.

10 Al Hamilton January 9, 2018 at 8:54 AM

Unfortunately, our accounting system is not designed to give accurate estimates of the true costs of a new hire.

The cost is well in excess of $80,000. $80,000 may be the increase in the police budget to cover the costs of wages, training and other costs that show up in Police budget but there are large costs that are not accounted for here. The 2 largest are retirement benefits (remember, police officers can retire at 55) and health care both of which show up in other budgets. Also not included are the extra fuel costs for cruisers, depreciation on cruisers, and any extra facilities maintenance.

The BOS and Advisory should insist that a full cost accounting be done for any new hire so that the true costs of the decision can be put before Town Meeting rather than the misleading way it is done now.

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11 Townie January 9, 2018 at 9:32 AM

I’d be interested to see if Chief Paulhus has any statistics on how many times he the department has had to rely on surrounding comminuties for help.

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12 SB Resident January 9, 2018 at 3:17 PM

As a chief you should always be asking for more. We’ll give him this one and in two years, he’ll be requesting another. Of course with more they could do more, but the benefits are going to diminish. The point here is that there are lines for everything. For those who are good with adding one more, why not two or three or four? Where’s the limit? Based on the data with comparable towns, we are already past where an efficient town with comparable crime needs to be. It’s the same with the new public safety facility. Of course they need a newer/safer/better facility than they have now, but the new facility goes way beyond in size than what we have now and with it, I won’t feel any safer than I do today.

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13 Publius January 10, 2018 at 4:56 PM

As we all know, Rt 9 is a major heavily traveled road. Rt 85 is also well traveled. Surrounding cities and towns have well documented crime, including violent crime. Anyone who thinks violent criminals are not traveling in Southborough is being dishonest to his or herself. The issue needs to be properly vetted but this is a reminder that every dollar spent elsewhere on mansions and golf courses means less money for teachers police fire and road repair.

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14 Louise Barron January 11, 2018 at 9:41 PM

Another police hire, which as Al Hamilton points out will cost many thousands of dollars more, when including the benefits and perks that go with the job. Millions more for the fields, because they are inadequate and unsafe according to a resident at a BOS meeting. More money for poorly bid field lights where the the power supply was inadequate. More money for the 911 field that is costing a kings ransom, Burnett house that we absolutely had to save and we got the shaft. The Taj, the infamous police and fire complex that rivals any large city municipal building, because we absolutely had to have it, no matter the cost. Haven’t even touched on the school budget. Read my lips. NO MORE SPENDING. A moratorium on spending is what we need now.

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15 susan p January 12, 2018 at 10:21 PM

Learn to live within your means, Town of Southborough. We as residents need to do so. Too much spending!

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16 concerned_resident January 14, 2018 at 2:38 PM

Can Southborough afford anymore spending at all? How robust is our ‘rainy day ‘ fund. Where we SB go to cover expenses if the credit markets tank in the next year and stay low for an extended period of time? With little money saved away, and a no credit market to tap into, all that’s left is draconian cuts. We dont live in a bubble… immune from market forces (commercial tax base dries up with lower sales, fixed expenses for things like public employee salaries, benefits, etc. and diminishing state and fed help due to lower income.)

If our local ‘business/financial experts’ can persuade us commoners that the traditional 7-8 year economic cycle isnt applicable anymore, AND we have sufficient RDF $$, then lets spend, spend, spend. If not, then demand big picture assurances that we NEED another officer (… to come up to a certain level to provide a little bit more for their safety and the safety of the citizens.”). Question: How unsafe are we now? Data would be helpful, eh? What metrics define safety?

Its all about our rainy day fund. Enough saved already? There are needs, wants and desires. Which category does this fall into? Prove it first, then act.

———————-
is a recession on the horizon? lower tax revenues?

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/will-the-bull-market-for-stocks-finally-end-in-2018-if-so-blame-the-credit-market-bubble-2017-12-27

learn above bond inversion as a prognosticator of the economy. ——————-
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/08/the-bond-market-is-doing-something-it-hasnt-done-in-52-years.html

The Treasury market is doing something it hasn’t done in 52 years — here’s what it means. Mon, 8 Jan 2018 | 01:48

Volatility in the Treasury market has sunk to a multidecade low, and that could have sweeping implications for the bond market this year. The U.S. 10-year Treasury note has fallen to a 52-year low, according to a new report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch. I believe this is going to open the door to an inverted yield curve, wherein the longer-dated Treasuries carry a lower yield than those that are shorter-dated; this development is classically taken as a troubling signal for the broader market.

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17 Al Hamilton January 16, 2018 at 8:48 AM

Concerned:

While I share your concerns about the relentless thirst for spending by our local government, the situation is not as dire as you suggest.

1. Our operating budgets are not funded by borrowings, except for very short term bank borrowings to smooth out the flow of tax revenues called Tax Anticipation Notes or Revenue Anticipation Notes (TANS and RANS). Our operating budgets are funded mostly from property tax receipts and to a much lesser extent from state and federal revenue sharing.

2. Even in the past, when we did tap the “Rainy Day Fund” it’s impact on the overall budget was modest.

3. It has been substantially demonstrated that the size of a “Rainy Day Fund” does not impact our credit rating. Even as we reduced the size of that fund our credit rating improved. The reality is that the biggest factor in a credit rating is the economic health of the tax base (your property and mine). When we vote for a borrowing we are really voting for the taxes that will be extracted from the tax base. If the base is healthy the loan is secure because, in the end you do not have a choice about paying your taxes. (If you don’t believe me try not paying them.)

4. Here is the central question about the “Rainy Day Fund”. Are you willing to pay more in taxes in order to let the government save it with the promise that some day in the future your taxes might be less in an economic downturn? Or, would you rather save that money yourself?

5. Remember, money that sits in a “Rainy Day Fund” is money that is just itching to be spent on some worthy project or another.

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18 concerned citizen January 17, 2018 at 7:02 PM

Hello Al,

thanks for your comments and perspective on town financing and the process’s range of robustness. While i am still gloomy about the overall economy in 2018, I feel better given what you’ve said. I hope these themes remain in the public’s consciousness as Town Meeting comes up. Thrifty is good, stingy is too much.

best,
cc

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19 Al Hamilton January 18, 2018 at 7:41 PM

Happy to help. However, explaining the details of the budget and town finance to the public should really be the responsibility of town officials including our elected leaders and the leaders of the Advisory committee.

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20 Frank Crowell January 18, 2018 at 9:39 AM

The economy should do just fine. Apple just announced bringing money back into the US as well as jobs. In the Barron’s round table, Oscar Schafer wondered if his collegues were underestamating the GDP growth for the year. The bigger worry is: will federal, state and local government spend all the windfall or actually find solutions to overspending. History would say they will spend all of it.

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