Parsippany's police chief defended his need for more patrol officers Tuesday night during the second of three Township Council public hearings on the proposed $61.7 million municipal budget for 2012.
The police have asked for funding to hire four new police officers. Right now, according to Chief Anthony DeZenzo, 93 officers are on staff and the need to expand the force is "drastic."
In the spending plan, $13,162,220 is budgeted at present for police department salaries. That figure covers 126 Parsippany Police Department employees, including 97 officers, and proposes an across-the-board 2.5 percent pay hike for officers. Raises for support staff are not included.
Of the 97 officers included in the budget, four would be new hires (with a projected hiring date of April 1):
- Two Step 2 officers who would be paid $44,080 each
- One Step 3 officer who would be paid $50,036
- One Step 4 officer whose starting salary would be $55,994.
Salaries for experienced officers would range from $141,445 (for a captain) to $58,446 (for a Step 3 officer).
Councilman John Cesaro told the chief that in his estimation, hiring four police officers is too much.
"Safety is important to me," Cesaro said, "but I think we should hire [only] three this year."
DeZenzo intimated that not hiring more officers could mean dire consequences for the township.
"We have six detectives in the investigative division," the chief said.
"We had more in 1981 than there [are] currently. We're still responding...but we're getting dangerously close to where service to the community is suffering."
The police chief pointed out that Parsippany has a population of more than 53,000, with a weekday transient population—people who come into the town to work or shop—of an additional 100,000 or more. He said that right now, the township averages 2.1 officers per 1,000 residents, a figure that does not take transient traffic into consideration.
Asked whether having three traffic officers, the current level of staffing, was adequate, DeZenzo responded, "Absolutely not."
He added that any new hires likely would serve only to replace officers set to retire in the near future and attributed difficulties directly to "lack of manpower."
"We should be around 105," he said, adding, "Respectfully, we need to increase staff not merely replace staff."
DeZenzo in a recent interview told Patch that an optimally sized force would have 110 officers.
Deputy Chief Paul Philipps told the council that the threat of injury-mandated retirements could crop up at any time as well.
The hearing also unveiled news of a proposed merger between the police department and the Office of Emergency Management.
Mayor James Barberio told Patch that the move is being considered because the two agencies already work so closely together. He said in time, the merged departments could reduce redundancies and save money.
The mayor's proposed budget for 2012 comes in at $61,673,318, about $15,000 less than the previous year's plan. That figure includes non-tax revenues of about $18.5 million. The total expected tax levy would be $40,207,025.
Under the proposal, there would be no salary raises for Town Hall employees, save for longevity bonuses for workers who have served the town for more than 15 years.
Barberio's base salary remains at $106,489 for next year.
Neither is there an increase for council members, who each receive a stipend of $12,589, with the exception of Councilman Michael dePierro, who as the most senior member receives $13,980 annually.
The public hearings allow each the heads of each municipal department to make the case to the council for the money they are requesting as part of next year's budget. Council members look at three years' worth of spending plans to ensure that requests are in keeping with what went before.
As was demonstrated Tuesday, the body can opt to vote for reductions on the spot. The council did make certain cuts, including chopping $700 from the police force's request for $1,400 for random drug tests, putting the brakes on $28,000 for a new unmarked police car and snipping $6,000 from the Animal Control request for $12,000 to cover spaying and neutering of shelter animals.
The Tuesday hearing covered budget requests for public buildings and street lighting, the water utility, the Municipal Court, Animal Control, the Office of Emergency Management and the PPD, which receives the largest chunk of budgeted dollars.
The final budget hearing takes place Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at Town Hall. The public is invited to attend and to participate.