Last minute deals with the Firefighters Association and the Service Employees International Union saved the city enough money — $253,000 — to keep a parks maintenance worker and a community services officer on the payroll. That reduced the number of positions to be eliminated from the city budget from 17 to 15.
Three part-time police assistants and a police records specialist will still be laid off, however. Police Chief Scott Vermeer said keeping the community services officer is a higher priority for public safety, adding that a new electronic records system would make it easier to go without additional office staff.
The Council voted 6-1 to approve the budget, with John Inks opposed because of various fee hikes that he said would hurt small businesses and property owners.
The budget fixes a $4.6 million gap by spreading over $3 million in cuts across every city department, reduces rising employee compensation costs by $800,000 and increases revenue by $967,000 by raising nearly every service fee the city charges, including recreation fees, which are estimated to account for a total of $550,000 in new revenue.
Nearly every city employee group took cuts, even though only police had an expired contract. The SEIU agreed to take two unpaid days off and give up merit pay, while firefighters reduced their 4.2 cost of living pay increases to 3.2 percent. The Eagles, a group of mid-level managers, saved the city $333,000 by going without merit pay raises. Police agreed to go without cost-of-living pay raises and merit pay.
"I think what's happened in this last budget cycle is unprecedented," said Firefighters Association president John Miguel. "I've never known any group, while they are in contract, to give back money to the city."
Council hesitant to get early start on next year's city budget
For the second June in a row, City Manager Kevin Duggan prodded the council on the difficult budget decisions that may have to be made in the next 12 months. But this time, with only a $750,000 budget deficit projected next year and only painful, long-term strategies left on the table, council members were in no rush to say what needed to be done.
After the end of the two-hour presentation and discussion, the council had taken no clear position on any of the options discussed, even though most had been on a long list of possibilities suggested by Duggan last year. Mayor Ronit Bryant and council member Mike Kasperzak said they would reserve their comments for a future meeting on the topic.
Duggan projects a $754,000 deficit in next year's city budget, jumping to $2.8 million in 2012-2013 and $3.9 million in 2014-2015.
Possible options for dealing with the budget include some kind of voter-approved tax measure, developing city land for lease revenue and reducing the size of the city's fire department.
Council members Laura Macias, Tom Means and Jac Siegel complained about giving city employees union-contracted pay raises that outpaced city revenue growth. Last year, the city gave raises to employees that were worth $2.8 million while the city faced a $4.6 million deficit.
"If you are in a hole, quit digging," Macias said. "We're in a hole and we need to quit digging."