Porterdale lays off one police officer

PORTERDALE - Porterdale has reduced its police force by one officer as part of the town's efforts to make up a budget shortfall of about $200,000 for the current budget year.

City Manager Tom Fox said the layoff of one officer meets his mandate for each department to reduce expenses by 20 percent. Fox had given departments the option of reducing work force or reducing the number of hours worked.

The layoff brings Police Department staffing to six full-time officers, including Police Chief Wayne Digby.

Fox said this reduction in force concludes the personnel changes made necessary by the budget shortfall.

"We should be pretty much done with all the cutbacks and changes," he said Friday. "We think we've pretty much made the necessary cutbacks."

During City Council discussions of ways to make up the budget shortfall, some council members had expressed a desire to leave the Police Department staff intact. However, it was determined that a reduction in the police force would be necessary to make the required amount of cuts.

Last week, Fox announced that the city's public works crew leader and code enforcement officer positions were affected by the layoff. Remaining employees were asked to take a 20 percent cut in either hours or payroll. Workers at City Hall and at public works opted to reduce their hours from 40 per week to 32, Fox said.

Other cost-cutting methods implemented by Fox include requiring city employees to pay 40 percent of their health care insurance premiums. In the past, employees paid $10 per week of the monthly $299-per-employee premium; employees will now be asked to pay about $120 per month of the premium amount.

In addition, Fox said the city suspended its cleaning contract for City Hall and the Police Department headquarters, eliminated its pest control service, and eliminated city-paid cell phones for city employees and City Council members, except for those that would be needed in emergency situations. Fox said the city also suspended the program allowing police officers to take home their city-owned vehicles, with a couple of possible exceptions, including the canine officer.

Porterdale's budget woes stem from decreased revenues from sewer tap and building permit fees and an increase in expenses, including fuel and personnel costs.

Porterdale's fiscal 2008 budget totals $1.029 million in revenue, including transfers from the sanitation and water and sewer funds. The $200,000 deficit is comprised of about $188,000 in budgeted revenues and an increase in expenses of about $12,000.

Alice Queen can be reached at alice.queen@newtoncitizen.com.