SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ - At a scheduled budget work session on Tuesday, March 4, the Scotch Plains Council discussed the budgets for the police and fire departments.
Scotch Plains Police Chief Brian Mahoney gave the council an overview. The requested police budget for 2014 is $6,102,445, a proposed increase of approximately 7 percent over last year.
Mahoney emphasized that an understaffed police force resulted in exceeding last year’s overtime budget, which represented an increase of $61,781 (40 percent) in overtime pay from 2012 to 2013.
“We are already short two officers and two other officers are in the process of retirement,” said Mahoney. The proposed salary budget for 2014 is $5,770,000.
The purchase of new vehicles represents the next largest portion of the police budget. An estimated $83,400 is expected to be invested in:
- Harley Davidson Road King Police Package (lease)
- Five new marked police units (lease)
- Two Motorola Tag9gx spectra radios
- Two LED lights/emergency equipment
Other sections in the budget remained relatively flat.
The Council discussed a number of items for 2014 and beyond with Scotch Plains Fire Chief Jonathan Ellis. The requested budget anticipates expenses for the fire department to be $201,150, a 35 percent increase over the budget for last year. However, the fire department concluded 2013 nearly 15 percent under the projected budget total.
Salaries account for nearly half of the budget, while new equipment requests and vehicle repairs represent much of the remainder.
According to Ellis, $20,000 will be allocated to replace outdated/damaged equipment. Further, the department plans to invest in WiFi Internet and email access at both fire stations. “All access to weather data and email notifications were lost during Hurricane Sandy,” explained Ellis.
Councilwoman Colleen Gialanella voiced her opinion that the town firehouse buildings need improvements, but that the cost of funding such upgrades would be substantial.
While no action is imminent, Gialanella also suggested the possibility of relocating the firehouse on Senger Place to a nearby section in downtown and selling the existing property to developers. The sale could prevent a tax hike for residents and help pay for upgrades.
The next public Council Meeting is on Tuesday, March 18 at 7 p.m.
Full details on the budget can be found in PDF format on the homepage of the Scotch Plains town website.