Shelter Island Police won’t be getting cameras in their patrol cars in 2016 unless they can find grant money to pay for them.Town Board members decided at Friday afternoon’s budget hearing to knock out the $31,000 line item in Chief Jim Read’s proposal for cameras in three police vehicles.
While the chief made the case that there’s a trend toward using the cameras to capture information for the benefit of both police and those stopped by them, the Town Board wasn’t convinced.
Councilman Ed Brown opposed the idea and Supervisor Jim Dougherty said he thought it was unnecessary. Councilman Peter Reich questioned Chief Read earlier last week about whether there might be grant money to pay for cameras and the chief said he was unaware of any sources.
“Video will come,” said Councilman Paul Shepherd, who had spoken earlier in support of the cameras. Councilwoman Chris Lewis agreed, but thought the time was not yet right to spend the money.
Town Board members spent the Friday afternoon session reviewing the budget page by page, agreeing that a lot of budgets submitted by department chiefs and committees were similar to current spending and inspired few questions.
At the same time, after dealing with the police request for cameras, the board prepared to focus on those budgets where major issues abound and then to revisit a few items such as pay hikes, most of which, aside from those under contract, are slated now for about 2 percent.
As always, the Highway/Public Works budgets are the most difficult to tackle because the needs are great and money to include all of them is sparse.
Highway Superintendent and Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr. knows he won’t be getting the more than $700,00 in his request to fix town roads. But he’s been hoping to see $100,000, not the $30,000 Mr. Dougherty has penciled in for road maintenance and repairs.
If the line isn’t increased, Mr. Card has said, he would likely have only funds for filling potholes and doing other temporary repairs. He’s trying to start major repaving with an eye to getting on a 20-year-cycle. Many town roads haven’t been repaved in close to 50 years, with only patchwork taking place, Mr. Card said.
While drivers may not see the problems, his trained eye can spot those areas where there will be serious problems if left unattended, he added.
Mr. Card also knows he won’t get five new vehicles, but is hoping the Town Board will see its way to funding one in 2016. While outlining costs, he pointed out that existing trucks have reasonable resale value now, but the longer he has to wait to replace them, the less income he will have from resale to offset the purchase price of new vehicles.
Mr. Dougherty has said that to fully fund Mr. Card’s budget request would cause a 20 percent increase in taxes.
Other major areas that will receive careful consideration by the Town Board when budget talks continue Wednesday morning are:
• How much funding to allocate for water quality testing.
• Decisions about personnel that have an impact on both the Deer & Tick and Public Works budgets. Mr. Card has said he loses manpower from March through November when highway employee Nick Ryan spends an average of 30 hours per week setting up and maintaining 4-poster units, the feeding stands that brush deer with tickicide.
• How to budget for the Building Department, because Building Inspector Bill Banks will be retiring this spring. Without knowing who will replace him, the Town Board will have to find the means to fill the position.
• How much to allocate for raises for those employees not covered by contracts. The line is currently listed at 2 percent. But Mr. Dougherty’s has suggested that he take only 1.5 percent, but give higher raises to his office staff. Also under consideration is Mr. Card’s request for a substantial raise of his own salary and a hike for his secretary, Debbie Speeches.
The Town Board plans to meet in sessions beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday and again on Wednesday afternoon. Then, because of personal appointments various members have, they will resume their work the following week.