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July 6, 2010 > Additional budget cuts

Additional budget cuts

By Shavon Walker

Union City faces more budget cuts. Internal accounting adjustments, departmental expenditure adjustments and increased-revenue generation were approved at the June 15 Council Meeting but, on June 29, additional cuts were presented to fully close the $2.8M General Fund budget gap anticipated for FY 2010-11.

The first two levels of approved cuts include shorter library hours, increased collections of real estate business license fees and eliminating the police dispatcher and PBX operator positions. $250,000 was also shifted from Capital Projects reserve to the General Fund operating account and temporary suspension of $250,000 annual reservation in General Fund balances in FY 2010-11 for Capital Improvement Program. These actions and others reduce the deficit to $754,200.

To eliminate the remainder of the budget gap, Council considered further options. These include laying-off a part-time intern, a city engineer, and two grounds and maintenance employees. Further service level reductions were suggested - additional reduction of library hours, eliminating teen and youth programs and, in the Police Department, overtime reduction, eliminating a vacant officer position and a Police Transport Officer (PTO) position.

Reductions and cuts will impact many areas of Union City. The library, already closed on long-weekends (when there is a public holiday), would close on two additional days each month to achieve savings of $16,000. General Fund support of $50,000 for teen and youth programs could be withdrawn giving young people fewer after-school options. Reducing overtime would limit the Police Department's staffing flexibility. Elimination of the police dispatcher and PBX operator positions will shrink the department further, necessitating a move to a Safety Service Model under which responses to low-priority calls (such as non-injury collisions) are restricted. Eliminating the vacant officer position would mean that the Student Resource Officer (SRO) program at Logan High School could also be terminated.

Closure of community centers, eliminating a second officer position, a 13-day furlough for non-safety employees plus a five-year deferral of paid holiday pay and elimination of Employer Paid Mandatory Contributions (EPMC) were put aside. Combined, these alternatives would exceed the amount needed to close the budget gap; therefore, they were no longer considered.

Councilmember Carol Dutra-Vernaci suggested that instead of eliminating the PTO position, Council should authorize the issue of 30 lay-off notices, containing a rescission clause, as soon as possible. A rescission clause allows the issuer to rescind, or reverse, the lay-off if it is no longer necessary.

Dutra-Vernaci feels that if conversations with bargaining units over concessions continue, then more flexible decisions can be made. Vice Mayor Richard Valle agreed, stating he would not remove a SRO from a 4,000-student school. He also suggested moving $30,000 from the General Fund to finance the PTO position.

Council voted unanimously on Dutra-Vernaci and Valle's motions. No decision was made on whether to implement the cuts immediately. Council hopes that negotiation of employee reductions and good-faith bargaining will help avert the need for such draconian decisions. The FY 2010-11 budget has already been set but the expectation is that if cuts are approved and implemented quickly, it will reduce the likelihood of more cuts in the future.

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