Leading up to Tuesday’s official budget hearing, the Newburgh City Council held a special meeting last Wednesday to discuss concerns over the budget.
“I’m confident we’re going to be able to get through the situation we’re faced with,” said City Manager Joe Donat at the beginning of the meeting. “The only way we’re going to be able to get through this situation is through continued collaboration.”
The meeting discussed updates to the budget, the Police Department, Fire Department, the Department of Public Works, and Dispatch positions.
During an especially tense moment, dispatchers from the Fire Department and Police Department confronted the City Council with their emotional testimonials.
“We never really get the chance to have anything to say,” said Stephanie Roper, Police Dispatcher. “We are part of the Police Department and we are the backbone of the Police Department. I am a City of Newburgh Police Department dispatcher, but I am a civilian. I am not a uniformed officer. There are only five of us in the building, there are only 12 civilians left in the entire building. We’re extremely important, and we’re a lot cheaper to keep.”
For the likes of Roper, cutting dispatcher positions may create more disaster than benefit. For Roper, being a dispatcher is an intimate job that requires a deeper interaction with residents than most.
“I know your voice, and you know mine,” said Roper. Roper believes that cutting dispatchers is financially inefficient. “I don’t understand where he [Donat] comes IN and says that’s saving money.”
“We have been dedicated to the city, myself, for 22 years. The other dispatcher has 19 years,” said Roper. Roper gestured to another dispatcher sitting behind, “She has 17 years and a special needs child. Another one has seven years, and the new one has five months.
Roper proceeded to discuss her responsibilities and the responsibilities of other police dispatchers. The female dispatchers often find themselves taking on responsibilities like strip searching prisoners.
“We don’t get overtime for that. I get nothing extra in my pay ever,” said Roper.
It was established during the meeting that 51 percent of the budget is in the police and fire department. Also, the meeting discussed where cuts can be made to avoid layoffs. One of the suggested cuts was to ShotSpotter. ShotSpotter is a shot detection program used by the City of Newburgh Police Department. According to the Police Department, it costs $120,000 per year and misses 33 percent of shots fired.
The final 2020 fiscal budget will be officially adopted on November 26.