By Ross Markman
With her caseload on the rise and her work hours potentially on the decline, Havre City Judge Joyce Perszyk could be in a bind.
"It's tough to take anything off that schedule. And I don't have any control over the amount of work that comes into this office," she said.
Thursday night, Perszyk was one of three city department heads to address the Havre Finance Committee, making their budget proposals for 2002-03.
City judge for about five years, Perszyk is only eight months removed from having her job reclassified as full time. Since she took office in 1997, a federal grant has accounted for 12 hours of her weekly income. The Encourage Arrest Policies grant, which has to be renewed every 18 months, expired in August.
During the first week of September, Perszyk was notified that a part-time pay scale was in effect for her job.
After requesting that the Havre City Council allocate the necessary funds to finance the 12 hours, Perszyk went back to full time in November.
City clerk Lowell Swenson said then that the city had some unexpected revenue from the state a federal domestic abuse grant, along with beer, wine and liquor revenue that could be used to fund the judge's post.
Perszyk asked the finance committee on Thursday to once again find extra funding and keep her position full time.
Perszyk also requested the city hire a second full-time court clerk to assist clerk Beth Rucinsky, who, along with the judge, is inundated with paperwork. The clerk would be hired as a grade one city employee and would earn between $9 and $10 an hour.
Perszyk proposed the city pay half the clerk's salary. She's asked the HELP Committee and the Human Resources Development Council to apply for grants to cover the other half.
If they get the grants, she said, the money would be transferred to the city to fund the remaining 20 hours a week.
"We're hoping that the other person would be computer-literate. He or she would do things like answering phones and inputting tickets," Perszyk said. "It's become almost a full-time job by itself. With our workload and the tickets, we can't keep up with just the two of us."
In other departments, Havre Police Chief Kevin Olson said the force needs an extra $3,000 this year. About $1,000 of that is for overtime pay, which, he said, has been at $24,000 for the last three or four years.
"That line item needs to be increased to reflect salary increases," Olson said.
Olson also asked for a $1,000 increase in the department's firearm supplies fund and $500 for dispatcher travel and training.
The police budget, Olson noted, is also being slashed in several areas $1,000 in gas, oil and tires, and $1,170 for safety equipment, because, Olson said, every officer now has a bulletproof vest.
As for long-term improvements, Olson made three requests, each for several years down the road. By 2005-06, he asked that the city have $15,000 in its coffers to replace department firearms. The officers have used the same Glocks since 1991.
"We have to start looking to replace those sometime in the future," Olson said.
The chief also made two requests for 2007-08 $25,000 to replace the animal control vehicle, a 1997 Ford pickup with 35,000 miles, and an estimated $60,000 to construct a steel-frame building on the gravel lot south of the police station. The structure, which could house police cruisers, seized vehicles and large equipment, is a joint budget item with the Fire Department.
Fire Chief Dave Sheppard likewise asked for several increases in his department's budget, including about $1,700 to buy a reconditioned exercise bike for the city's weight room.
In addition, Sheppard hopes to send two firefighters to a 10-day hazardous materials training program in Colorado, where those attending will learn what to do when faced with weapons of mass destruction. Sheppard asked for $1,500 per person to pay for lodging and other expenses.
The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, he added, has said it would fund the $1,200-a-person tuition for the training.
"This would be a one-time deal for us," he said.
Sheppard also requested that the city bank $17,000 so the department can purchase new firefighting gear in four years.
"They're still in good shape," he said. "But I think we need to plan for the future. It is clothing and it does wear down."
For the ambulance budget, Sheppard requested an additional $4,000 in overtime pay.
"Our long calls are up from 34 in 2000 to 58 in 2002, and this is only until April," he said. "I realize that's a chunk of change, but I think it's justified."
A long call, Sheppard said, is when the ambulance squad transports a patient by ground to another hospital, most of the time to Great Falls. The number of short calls has dropped, he said, because of the expense to the patient. A short call is when a city ambulance takes a patient to the Havre airport.
The finance committee meets again Monday night at 7:30 to hear the budget proposals from the city public works and parks and recreation departments.