Thursday, February 12, 2009
Inthe face of a dismal fiscal forecast, Seaside and Salinas’ non-safety workers have agreed to 10 percent pay cuts. But police officers and firefighters in Seaside aren’t being asked to make a similar sacrifice, while Salinas city officials press public safety workers to accept the deep concessions.
Seaside’s projected deficit of at least $3.5 million for the current fiscal year left the city with a stark choice between pay cuts and layoffs. “We’re trying to avoid laying people off in any department,” Mayor Ralph Rubio says.
Seaside’s non-safety employee unions accepted 10 percent salary reductions: mid-level managers as a direct cut, and lower-level employees as a four-hour work week reduction. The executive management team – city manager, assistant and deputy city managers, city attorney, and police and fire chiefs – took a voluntary 10 percent cut beginning Jan. 24.
The Seaside City Council approved the changes, along with other cost-cutting measures, at its Feb. 5 meeting.
From Feb. 7, 2009 through June 30, 2010, employees will work four nine-hour days. City Hall will be open 7:30am to 5:30pm Monday through Thursday, but closed on Fridays.
Managers and general employees’ unions also agreed to defer pay raises in exchange for longer paid vacations and closing City Hall over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
Seaside’s total savings are projected at $350,000 for the current fiscal year and $1.8 million for 2009-10.
For now, non-management police and fire employees have dodged the cuts. The Seaside Police Officers’ Association agreed to trim overtime, according to a staff report, but no other concessions appear to be on the table. POA President Detective Nick Borges did not return calls.
Seaside is also offering 50-and-older employees an incentive to quit early: two years additional service credit in the California Public Employees’ Retirement System if they retire between April 4 and July 7. Higher city payments to the pension fund will be offset by leaving the positions vacant.
“[THE POLICE] ARE NOT UNTOUCHABLE. UNLESS THEY GO ALONG WITH OTHER CITY DEPARTMENTS, THEN THAT IS GOING TO CREATE JOB LOSSES.”
The City Council approved additional cuts to the recreation department, including leaving two positions vacant and scaling back special event contributions, at a total savings of roughly $300,000 over the next year.
The national recession has left the city with a $12.6 million hole next fiscal year, which, even with planned belt tightening, is expected to grow to a $16.2 million deficit in fiscal year 2010-11. Without employee concessions, more than 100 people could lose their jobs, city officials say.
“[The police] are not untouchable,” Councilman Steve Villegas says. “Unless they go along with other city departments, then that is going to create job losses.”
City officials say all full-time employees can keep their jobs so long as they take a 10-percent pay cut and put off scheduled raises. So far most non-public safety workers – including the city manager – have agreed to the concessions. Other union groups, including the Salinas Police Officers’ Association and International Association of Firefighters, haven’t presented a salary-trimming plan to the city.
Chris Swinscoe, president of the police union, says officers are still negotiating with city staff about the proposal, which would require them to give up a 5 percent raise planned for April 1. “Any rumor that is floating around out there that the police department is not participating is not true,” he says. “We are still in the middle of talks.”
Police, however, will continue to fight the reduction of community service officers, which Swinscoe says would only burden the 10-14 patrol officers on a given shift with non-emergency calls and take them away from policing gangs.
On Feb. 24 the City Council is expected to approve the first round of budget cuts.