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Groton Long Point funding up for debate in town budget talks

By Greg Smith

Publication: The Day

Published March 01. 2013 4:00AM
'50 percent rule' for police at issue

Groton - How much the town is prepared to fund its political subdivisions is likely to be a subject of debate again this year as the Town Council begins its examination of budget requests.

Groton Long Point has asked the town for what Association President John Tuohy told the Town Council this week is its fair share of expenses. The City made a similar request last month.

The association has asked for a total of $604,600 from the town - $270,500 for its public works department and $334,100 for Groton Long Point police. The request is a $244,775 hike above current funding.

The public works request, $124,500 more than current funding, includes $87,000 for cleanup from Superstorm Sandy. Tuohy said the $87,000 represents 25 percent of the total costs that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is not paying.

Hit harder than most areas of town, Groton Long Point, in addition to removing sand and debris, experienced downed trees and damage to retaining walls, sidewalks and roads.

The Town Council last month rejected a similar $20,879 request to cover costs associated with cleanup in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. That request elicited frustration among councilors about how the town public works may have performed some of the work.

The need for three public works departments and three police departments has been brought up several times by the council this year.

Tuohy said the association is asking the town to fund 50 percent of its overall $668,200 police budget. The request is a $129,100 increase over current funding. Tuohy said the request includes salary for a sergeant and four patrolmen.

As with the City of Groton's presentation, the 50 percent funding request spurred debate.

Tuohy argued that the town has had an agreement in place with the association since 1945 to fund 50 percent of its police budget and the town only recently started reducing payments to Groton Long Point. The town funded 30 percent, or $205,000, of the Groton Long Point police budget last year, and a higher percentage for the city.

"We have two subdivisions and they both should be treated the same," Tuohy said. "In principle, we're asking for what we've always historically gotten."

Funding for Groton Long Point police was completely eliminated by the Representative Town Meeting in the fiscal year 2011 budget. Groton Long Point residents were forced to pick up the tab.

Citing statistics from an unreleased police study, Tuohy said it would cost $775,000, or about $100,000 more than the entire police budget, for the town to police Groton Long Point.

"It's pretty clear the town would incur a significant increase," he said. "We just hope we can work with the town."

He added that the subdivision accounts for more than 10 percent of the town's property taxes.

Mayor Heather Bond Somers said the police study, which she had seen but is still in its draft form, contained numerous inaccuracies.

She argued there was nothing in the charter to show the town needed to fund the subdivisions by 50 percent, only to provide police services. Councilor James Streeter, the town historian, said he has yet to find documentation outlining the 50 percent agreement.

g.smith@theday.com

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