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BBPD kicks off budget talks

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

The Bradenton Beach Police Department’s proposed 2012-13 budget represents the lion’s share of the city’s estimated $2.3 million budget.

With a proposed budget of $959,732, it is the largest spending amount for the biggest department.

Police Chief Sam Speciale addressed commissioners July 9, outlining the department’s proposed budget, which is about $59,000 more than what was budgeted this year.

“Basically what this is, is the mayor asked to put a 3 percent increase in for salaries, so that’s what the numbers reflect,” said Speciale. “When we discuss the budget, I have to tell you, when the salaries change, all of the numbers that have to do with benefits go up, too.”

Police department salaries totaled $499,132 in this year’s budget and are being proposed at $543,912 for the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

Retirement contributions will rise by almost $2,000, while insurance costs will grow by $4,200.

Additional costs in the department include telecommunications, which increased from $4,200 to $8,400.

Speciale said the department’s communications system was upgraded, as mandated by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

“We went from a radio-based computer system to an air-based computer system,” he said. “All of the computers in the patrol cars now have a Sprint card in them, and we have to pay for them. That’s dictated by the sheriff’s office because our communications are with the sheriff’s office.”

Speciale said with the proposed salary raise, his total budget increase will be about 5 percent for the coming fiscal year.

“The salaries reflect 3 percent and that doesn’t include some other things,” he said. “But we have lowered some other items. Some of the ones we don’t have control over went up, like insurance and gas costs.”

The department was asked to cut 2 percent from its budget this year, but Speciale has said his department has not purchased a new vehicle in years.

The purchase of a new vehicle is budgeted for 2012-13.

“We have been asked to cut down so much with things, that I can’t plan ahead,” said Speciale. “We basically got into an attitude in the city of run it until it breaks. I don’t have any reserve cars. I can’t afford to have a vehicle break down and not have a policeman on the road.”

Speciale said years ago the department would budget for a new vehicle a year, but that policy changed in recent years.

“What ended up happening is we got into a situation of not buying cars, and literally what was happening was we have been putting more money into them than they are worth,” he said. “We are trying to get back into the rotation again to get one more car a year.”

Commissioners agreed that public safety is paramount.

“When it comes to public safety, I don’t see anything wrong with this budget,” said Mayor John Shaughnessy. “I know in the last few years we’ve received cars from the county for free, but by the time we get them, they belong in the junkyard.”

Shaughnessy said Bradenton Beach police officers and citizens deserve better.

“This is Bradenton Beach,” he said. “We are supposed to be the star of the island, and we have the chief of police driving around in a car he’s afraid to wash because the paint is falling off.”

Speciale said it isn’t the upper echelon of the department he is concerned about.

“I’m embarrassed to drive my truck, but I can’t have one of my officers driving around in an old piece of junk because they are the guys out on the streets doing the job,” he said. “I’ve been here long enough to know we will do everything we can to save the city money but, right now, the most important thing is having our patrolmen on the road in good equipment.”

Shaughnessy said the city starts the budget process in a $104,000 deficit, but the police budget is reasonable. The mayor said the city would need to find a way out of the financial hole while still paying for essentials.

“Where is that money going to come from? Are we going to have a bake sale? I think the police department has come up with a reasonable budget. I’m not going to go hog wild here. I just want to get the city back to where it was,” he said.

Commissioners have several rounds of budget talks scheduled and will set the tentative millage rate July 25. The millage rate is what is used to determine how much is paid in property taxes.

Of the city’s $2.27 million budget this year, $853,085 was collected in ad valorem taxes. Bradenton Beach property owners have not had a city tax increase since 2002, and the millage rate was lowered this year.

Commissioners have suggested a millage rate increase is possible for the new fiscal year.

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