Backdraft

At a town hall meeting tonight at the Miracle Mile’s Empire Theater Deputy City Manager Laurie Montes had a graph that plotted city revenues against expenses, this year and several years into the future. The expenses, a red line, are currently greater than revenues, a blue line. That was projected to continue.

Among the possible solutions are a $10.25 million cut to the Police Department’s budget, entailing the layoffs of 48 sworn officers. There were suggested cuts to other departments, as well, but not to the Fire Department.

“Almost everything in that department is locked up in the labor contract,” Montes said.

Layoffs, station closures and reductions to minimum daily staffing at the Fire Department are all precluded by an agreement the city negotiated with the firefighters union to cut costs in late 2008.

In return the union agreed, among other concessions, to the suspension until 2011 of of a 3.68 percent cost-of-living allowance, and a raise that was due in July 2009 was deferred to this year, also in July. That raise is to be based on a salary survey to be done in April, but will be at least 4.5 percent. Those two concessions were then estimated by the union to save the city about $4.6 million within the current fiscal year.

At the meeting Fred Sheil, of the community group Stocktonians Taking Action to Neutralize Drugs, complained of the cuts to the Police Department, which have already all but eliminated its community policing programs. (STAND has worked with the Police Department in the past on its community-policing programs.) Sheil said the Fire Department is too expensive for the city to maintain.

Referring to the Fire Department’s top rating, Sheil said: “We’ve got to do something about the Fire Department. Class A’s got to go!”

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