Head of the Harbor Village Police Chief Charles Lohmann warned village officials last week that he was struggling to fill patrol shifts and may have to raise officer wages to compete with neighboring departments.
With the village facing a $200,000 deficit as budgeting gets underway, the news was unwelcome. Next year “is going to be a little more difficult,” Mayor Douglas Dahlgard said in an interview last week.
The amount the village pays for insurance and fire protection is also expected to increase, leaving little maneuvering room without a property tax increase above the state imposed cap, something Dahlgard said he has not ruled out. The village’s 2017 budget is due in January.
Head of the Harbor’s budget this year is $1.8 million, with $362,370 going to police pay for about 30 part-time officers who staff its department 24 hours a day.
Officers are paid about $31 per hour, Dahlgard said, more for night and holiday work. That wasn’t enough to lure a potential hire who recently went to Asharoken Village to earn $9 more per hour, Lohmann said at a village board work session Wednesday, and the holiday premium of $40 per hour pales in comparison to the $120 an officer can make working for Suffolk County police.
Lohmann asked for $1 more an hour and more money for holiday and night work for village officers to combat what he called “a growing disparity” between the department and its neighbors.
“Even with additional officers in place, we continue to be challenged with scheduling, in particular nights, weekends and holidays,” he said, adding that he has been filling some of those shifts himself. “I don’t mind pitching in, but if I’m going to be working every holiday . . . that’s not tenable for me.”
In an interview, Dahlgard defended the village police department as “far less expensive and more personal” than what residents could expect from county coverage.
“One of the benefits of living in the village is knowing who the policemen are,” he said. “You can call them up and ask them, ‘Can you watch my house while I go to Florida for three months?’ ”
He made no promises, though, about next year’s salaries. “I’m all in favor of increasing salaries to alleviate these problems,” he said at last week’s work session. “But we have to recognize what constraints we have.”