No high resolution image exists...
Friday marks the first day of the new fiscal year for the City of Sacramento – and the last day of work for more than 200 city employees, including 42 sworn police officers.
The final city budget, which passed on June 21, included deep cuts to parks, libraries and public safety agencies and filled a $39 million budget gap.
The budget did not pass without contention, however.
Council members Angelique Ashby and Steve Cohn and Mayor Kevin Johnson each went against the budget, calling the cuts to public safety “drastic” and creating a 6-3 split vote.
“These cuts to public safety are too big. They’re way too big,” Ashby said. “Why would we cut more than we have to?”
During the proceedings at the June 14 council meeting, Cohn proposed a motion to use nearly $4 million earmarked for other purposes (including shoring up the city’s anemic reserve fund), in return for matching concessions from police and fire unions to restore cut positions.
That proposal failed 3-6, with the only “aye” votes coming from Ashby, Cohn and Johnson.
Critics of the new budget, particularly the Sacramento Police Officers Association, (SPOA), have said that Cohn’s motion was an effort at showing good faith toward the labor unions and would have eased the way to talks between union and city representatives for alternatives to layoffs.
Ashby, Cohn and Johnson agreed.
“We found a way to save as many (positions) as possible,” Ashby said during the council meeting. “I don’t understand why this council would walk away from that opportunity.”
Johnson said he feels the city has done everything it can up to this point.
“We’ve cut $200 million from our general fund over the past four years, and we can’t keep cutting,” Johnson said at a press conference Tuesday.
Johnson encouraged police and fire unions to consider concession discussions and said that “if some of our (police) officers can be saved, we should look at (Cohn’s proposal).”
Cohn said he believed his proposal was “reasonable and necessary” to restore dangerous cuts to public safety without jeopardizing the city’s contingency reserve funds.
“(It) also called for shared sacrifice,” Cohn said, “by making these funds contingent on permanent, ongoing labor concessions.”
Cohn added that his proposal relied on “added savings” developed during the budget process including keeping management staff on furloughs to pay for the public safety restorations.
“Unfortunately, a majority of the council did not agree, so I was on the short end of (the) vote,” Cohn said.
“Our police department is comprised of intelligent, compassionate people. They know how much we value them,” Johnson said. “We’re reaching out to them to have real discussions going forward.”
Although Ashby, Cohn and Johnson were not supportive of the final budget, Johnson said at the press conference that, now that the budget is in place, “We are all committed to find solutions.”
The city faces some serious financial problems over the next few fiscal years, according to a city manager staff report, including a “structural deficit (that) will persist unless additional permanent corrective actions are implemented.”
A structural deficit is when the budget has more expenses than income.
2011-2012 will be the fifth year in a row that the city has faced a budget shortfall, despite major reductions in prior years to services and personnel.
Cohn, however, is trying to stay positive.
“I’m encouraged by possible talks with SPOA and local 522 (the firefighters union),” Cohn said. “Stay tuned.”