NEWBURY — Budget cuts have claimed another Newbury police officer, as Stephen Smith, a full-time officer since August 2010, was laid off earlier this month.
Smith, who joined the department in 2007 as a reserve officer, was informed of his termination on Saturday, March 17, by Newbury police Chief Michael Reilly.
With Smith's departure, the Police Department is now down to 10 full-time officers, including Reilly; six part-time officers and three part-time dispatchers. As recently as 2007, the department had 14 full-time officers and four dispatchers.
Reilly said the decision to lay off Smith, who had the least seniority, was based on the most recent budget analysis that showed the reduction was needed for the Police Department to keep in the black for the remainder of fiscal 2012, ending June 30.
"He's a good police officer, and it is a shame we had to let him go at this point," Reilly said. "It's just a tough situation, and we understand the economy, so we try to do the best we can with the resources we have."
Reilly said he didn't think he'd need to make any more personnel cuts between now and June 30, adding that there was a chance of rehiring Smith in July should certain budgetary factors work in his favor.
"My goal would be to bring him back if our budget is fully funded," Reilly said.
Later this spring, voters at Town Meeting and then at the polls will decide whether the town can raise taxes via an override to make up for a predicted budget shortfall. This year, the town is looking for an additional $293,000 in taxes to cover deficiencies in several town department budgets, including $100,000 for the Police Department, $100,000 for the Fire Department, $29,000 for the Public Works Department and $34,000 for the public library.
Should the override fail, additional cuts to the Police Department could be coming, according to Town Administrator Tracy Blais,