By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — The Police Department is looking to hire another patrol officer in the next fiscal year, Chief Nick Secatore said during last week’s Select Board meeting.
Secatore is requesting a $3,867,202 operating budget for fiscal year 2025, which represents a 6.4 percent increase over FY24’s $3,633,940.80 spending plan. He previously requested adding an additional patrol officer for the last two fiscal years, but the position was not funded.
“We continue to need officers to serve on the department,” said Secatore. “We need patrol, investigative and administrative officers.”
Secatore said the Police Department currently has 21 officers and one vacancy. He informed the Villager that the Police Department is in “the process of hiring for the open position now.”
“Every time we have an officer off, it is filled with overtime,” said Secatore during the Select Board’s meeting. “That is vacation, sick time and retirements. If we are at our full compliment of officers and somebody is out for an extended period of time, that is all extra overtime. We ran into a position last year where that got more expensive than it should of. If we had a body to backfill, it would have cut that number down drastically.”
Secatore has budgeted $2,792,674 for police officer salaries in FY25, which is 10.5 percent higher than the $2,526,647.88 allocated in FY24.
“The department continues to have no redundancy in its patrol force,” said Secatore. “Roughly, an officer works for about 2,040 hours per year. And once you consider contractual vacation time, personal time and training time, we roughly get the officer for 1,500 or 1,600 hours a a year. Just by general accounting, we are behind the eight ball. It becomes expensive for the town.”
Secatore said adding another patrol officer is a “win for the department and a win for the town.” He recalled that Fall Town Meeting has historically had to transfer money into the police budget to cover overtime costs that are higher than what was appropriated.
“We shouldn’t be in a position where we are always looking to transfer money in,” said Secatore. “We should be living within this budget. We did increase the overtime budget a little bit last year and we can work with this if we don’t have anybody out. As history has shown, with the amount of people we have employed, it’s always an impending retirement or somebody out on leave whether it’s sick leave, medical leave or family leave. We have seen that every year for the last 15 to 20 years. Adding a person will go along way toward ensuring we are not constantly asking the town for overtime.”
Select Board member Dick Dalton was taken aback that Secatore requested a 6.4 budget increase for FY25.
“I just don’t know how that fits into the overall scheme of things here,” said Dalton.
Secatore said the request for the additional patrol officer totals $77,000.
“Those other increases are contractual increases,” said Secatore. “I don’t believe the body is driving that up.”
Secatore offered to provide the Select Board with additional information about the proposed FY25 police budget that is unrelated to the patrol officer request.
“That would be helpful,” said Dalton.
Dalton asked what will the new officer’s responsibilities be if the position gets funded.
Secatore said the new officer would be a patrol officer who would also assist with investigations and administrative responsibilities.
“We have the ability to use them in any capacity,” said Secatore. “It’s not a position where the person would be utilized when we need them. They will be a police officer who will be in the rotation with every other police officer. It helps all areas of the department to have somebody we can call on to do any of the various work.”
Select Board member Phil Crawford said the Police Department will be “saving $50,000 in overtime by bringing on a new officer.” However, he noted that the salaries portion of the preliminary operating budget will be increasing by $266,026.12 in the next fiscal year.
Secatore recalled that the Select Board ratified a three-year contract with the Lynnfield Police Association last fall, which occurred a year-and-a-half after the previous three-year collective bargaining agreement ended. As a result, he said police officers received retroactive checks to make up for the current pact’s delay. He informed the Villager that Fall Town Meeting voted to transfer $50,000 into the overtime budget in order to make the contractual retroactive payments.
“They have been made,” said Secatore during the Select Board’s meeting.
Town Administrator Rob Dolan agreed.
“We can’t budget anything unless it has been completed because it would be considered an unfair labor practice,” said Dolan. “This was the last contract that we signed.”
In response to a question from Crawford, Secatore said the Police Department lost two officers in June 2022. One officer retired and the other officer left the Police Department.
“You will see a direct correlation between having an additional body with the amount of overtime money we transfer in,” said Secatore. “I am not trying to take away overtime, but we are just trying to work within it.”
Select Board Chair Joe Connell inquired if the Police Department can adopt a policy that will limit the number of officers who are out at the same time when they take vacations.
“We do limit the number of people who can be out per week,” said Secatore. “We also find that during the summer, when children are not in school, we have the maximum number of officers out for the whole week. Two people are allowed out on vacation weeks, and everybody pitches in to help them out. That works wonderful and nobody has been denied vacation. But if you have people out and are down an officer, you have to fill those shifts also. It gets hard during the summer, and this would alleviate that.”
The Police Department is requesting a $140,000 capital budget for FY25.
Secatore is requesting two police cruisers, totaling $120,000.
“This is not an expansion of our fleet,” said Secatore. “We are asking for money to replace existing cars.”
Dalton inquired how long does a police cruiser last.
“We usually keep our cars for six or seven years,” said Secatore.
Secatore is also requesting a generator that will be used for backup power at one of the Police and Fire Departments’ remote radio sites, totaling $10,000.
“This is a replacement for the existing unit that is estimated to be 20-plus-years-old,” said Secatore.
Secatore is also requesting $10,000 in order to purchase battery backup units for the remote radio sites.
“These are replacements and upgrades for old units,” said Secatore.