South Portland departments make budget pitches

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SOUTH PORTLAND — As scrutiny of the fiscal 2016 municipal budget continues, city councilors heard from Police Chief Edward Googins, Library Director Kevin Davis, and Planning and Development Director Tex Haeuser on Monday in a workshop.

Over the next few weeks, the council will be discussing itemized budget lists with various departments, before the full budget is approved.

In the fiscal year that begins July 1, according to City Manager Jim Gailey’s estimations, the library’s budget is expected to increase by about 2 percent, to a total of $674,000; the Planning Department will see an increase of about 2.2 percent, to $230,000; the Code Enforcement Department’s budget is expected to increase by 6 percent, to about $711,000, and the Police Department expects an increase of about 2.7 percent, which will put its total budget at an expected $4.2 million. 

Various enhancements or changes in each department include Haeuser’s continued efforts to seek approval from the state to replace current street light bulbs with LED bulbs, and the request to purchase an DVD repair machine for the library.

The Police Department has factored budget increases in areas that include building maintenance (28 percent) and criminal investigation (an increase of nearly 17 percent). Other improvements, such as the completed transition to computerized parking tickets, will reduce printing and binding costs 9 percent from 2015, as well as a reduction of nearly 25 percent for electric, gas and oil costs.

Googins also noted the difficulties the department has faced in staffing, both in officers and in positions like school crossing guards. 

“It’s a struggle constantly,” Googins told the council regarding crossing guards, whose duties often are carried out by officers.

Last year, in an effort to get more applicants for the position, the department raised the guards’ pay from between $9 and $10 an hour, to $11. This year, Googins said, they plan to raise hourly wages to $12. 

In reference to staffing officer positions, Googins said there was a low number of applicants in the last year, but said the department still manages to hire exemplary officers. He did admit, “We don’t really have a good recruitment plan.”

The City Council will continue to review the budget Monday, March 30. The first budget public hearing will be Wednesday, April 1, at City Hall. 

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.