Early fiscal planning as part of any municipality’s budget process includes garnering initial financial requests from department heads for specific purposes of maintaining programmatic efficiency. It is part of the stated budgetary duties of the municipality, including those of village officials in Blasdell, to responsibly mete out responses to such financial desires while reasonably appeasing local residents in the tax process.
Last Wednesday (Jan. 23), Blasdell officials met during a budget workshop session to first review financial requests brought from village departments such as police, fire, law and others. Blasdell Police Lieutenant Joseph Gramaglia spoke about some of the ongoing initiatives of the village police, including the renovation of the department office to accommodate the addition of a detective unit, as well as updating the computers. Also, a central scanner is being sought to assist in replicating units in patrol cars that serve as a means of obtaining pertinent driving histories of individuals pulled over for various reasons, particularly DWI scenarios.
Such requests come with the asking price of increases to police equipment, as well as the desire of Gramaglia to have police officers’ hourly rate of pay boosted, although the police lieutenant noted that he himself is not seeking a salary increase. A rise in police uniform expenses comes partly through a grant represented in purchasing bulletproof vests for department members. Gramaglia described the hypothetical officer pay increase as “a shot in the arm” for department members, to help sustain what the police lieutenant described as “the best part-time police department in Erie County.”
A focus on DWI enforcement through related police patrol has also resulted in the request in overtime expenditures, accounted through added police shifts in such an area, notably during and after Buffalo Bills home games.
It was noted that yet-to-filed paperwork regarding DWI occurrences in Blasdell over the last two years, to be submitted through Stop DWI of Erie County, could yield as much as $11,000 in reimbursable income to the village. Parameters of DWI arrests in Blasdell, including the dedicated officer shift, equipment usage such as the breathylizer and the responding officer to operate the device, and mileage-were listed as part of the reimbursable items of Stop DWI. Gramaglia said instances of DWI arrests in the village have increased over the last four years.
“(Officers) are visible, being seen and doing the job,” Gramaglia said in reference to Blasdell police taking part in DWI enforcement.
The police lieutenant added that a member of the village’s police department had taken part in a class that taught law enforcement recognition of drivers indicating signs of being under the influence of narcotics, such as pills. Gramaglia said courses such as this are valued by the department.
Various repairs to patrol cars and accompanying radios are also being sought.
Fire department budgetary requests were limited in terms of increases, according to Blasdell Volunteer Fire Chief John Welch. It was noted that the company will likely stay aligned with Southtowns HazMat, not opting to join with Erie County HazMat, for services related to cleanup involving agents such as Speedy Dry. Southtowns HazMat was stated as having reimbursable funding options, something that Erie County HazMat does not offer.
Rapport between the fire company and village officials was said to be great, and it was added by Welch that membership in the fire department is trending toward youthful and enthusiastic. EMS calls were noted as typically involving five or six personnel responding to the scene, while fire engine calls garner response from 10 to 12 members involved.
Youth and recreation, engineering, and zoning and planning were some areas said to have no noted expenditure increases for the upcoming budget year.
The tax rate was stated by village officials to be undetermined this early in the budget process. It was added that the bulk of recent expenditure increases are represented through hikes in the areas of Employee Retirement System and health insurance costs. Blasdell Mayor Michael Petrie said that village officials would further assess the aforementioned department expenditure requests at the Village Board’s next work session/meeting, taking place on Wednesday, February 6.