HAVERHILL — Police and education received the largest bumps in Mayor James Fiorentini’s $166.8 million spending proposal.
The Police Department received an increase of about $400,000, or 4.1 percent, to hire three more officers and begin a reserve officer program. The mayor said building a stable of reserve officers will allow the city to replace retiring officers more quickly and potentially save money by cutting down on overtime spending. Under the civil service process, it takes about a year for a new officers to begin working, he said.
Fiorentini said five new officers budgeted a year ago, for instance, aren’t scheduled to “hit the street” until late June.
“Just adding police officers is not enough,” he told councilors last night. “We also have to speed up the hiring process.”
Police spending is expected to be the most controversial and debated part of the new city budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Councilors have said adding officers and giving police more resources is their top budget priority.
Police Chief Alan DeNaro has told the council he needs about $685,000 above the mayor’s proposal for positions, equipment and repairs and improvements to the police station, including $367,825 to fix the building’s roof. The mayor has said he will ask the council for permission to borrow money to repair or replace the roof later this year.
The Fire Department is also getting one new firefighter, the mayor said.
Overall, Fioretini’s spending proposal is up $3.5 million or 2.1 percent over this year.
Education spending is up $1.3 million or 2.1 percent in the mayor’s spending plan, which he handed off to City Council last night. The council will now begin holding public meetings with department heads to review individual parts of the budget. The council can cut spending, but cannot add it.
The mayor characterized his spending plan as “a far cry” from previous ones when the city’s financial picture was much more bleak.