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Intense city budget talks begin

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Sacramento City Council members began discussions Tuesday on the city manager’s recommendation to cut as many as 366 jobs in the budget for the 2011/2012 fiscal year.

One city union protested the proposed layoffs at City Hall before the City Council meeting, and representatives from two other unions expressed their opposition to the cuts during the meeting.

City officials presented the budget recommendations from the city manager’s office at Tuesday’s meeting and summarized the budget document.

As part of the meeting, Interim Deputy City Manager Betty Masuoka explained a chart on the job cuts recommended by the city manager’s office.

The city would need to slice 250 full-time positions to gain the $39 million in savings. But Masuoka and Interim City Manager Bill Edgar are making recommendations for cuts on top of the $39 million in light of the city’s ongoing financial woes.

City officials project that the city will continue to face budget gaps until fiscal year 2015/2016.

The gap for fiscal year 2012/2013 is $11.7 million and is expected to rise to $22.9 million in fiscal year 2013/2014. In fiscal year 2014/2015, the city expects to be $18 million in the hole. The gap drops to a $13 million deficit predicted in fiscal year 2015/2016. 

If the City Council decides to cut all the positions that Masuoka and Edgar have suggested, 366 positions would be lost, according to page 28 of the chart Masuoka referenced. 

It’s unclear at this point how many actual layoffs would result if the City Council decided to cut the 366 jobs. The numbers may change during the budget process. Plus, the city uses a process of demoting some employees while laying off others that can change the numbers.

Regardless, the City Council could decide to make hundreds of layoffs in the next few weeks.

“This budget is very painful,” Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell said.

Councilwoman Angelique Ashby indicated she would make efforts to avoid layoffs to police and fire employees. As many as 80 sworn officers could be laid off in the proposed budget, according to the Sacramento Police Department.

Ashby said the citizens she represents are concerned about police and fire staffing and levee improvements.

“I’ve got to find ways to make those my top priority,” she said.

Councilman Kevin McCarty asked city staff to prepare an alternate budget that would show the city’s financial situation if the City Council made no public safety cuts.

Mayor Kevin Johnson said he was concerned about the layoffs.

Marcia Mooney, business representative for Local 39, said there could be about 150 layoffs of members of her union, who work in city services including parks maintenance, utilities and solid waste, she said. Local 39 is pressing the City Council to not put the brunt of layoffs on rank-and-file workers.

Representatives of the Sacramento Police Officers Association and Sacramento Area Firefighters Local 522 addressed the City Council during the meeting.

“You’re making life-and-death decisions,” said Detective Mark Tyndale, vice president of the police union.

The police department, he said, has already been “cut to the bone.”

Jaymes Butler of the firefighters’ union said Fire Department cuts could hurt communities. The proposed budget would ramp up the number of Fire Department “brownouts” from two to six.

The city fire department has two rolling brownouts in effect, which means that certain fire trucks and engines are out of service at various times, according to former Fire Department spokesman Jim Doucette.

The next public budget meeting will be held Thursday, May 12. The Sacramento Press will publish the time and place of the meeting as soon as it can obtain that information.

Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. 

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