Vallejo officials considering more cuts

March 10, 2009 7:41:19 PM PDT
Tough financial decisions are being made on Tuesday night in a Bay Area city that's already made some tough cuts in the past. Vallejo is staring at more budget cuts, but the question is where?

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People say Vallejo's economic picture began turning bad in the 1990's when Mare Island Naval Shipyard closed. Since then it has been getting worse.

Last year the city declared bankruptcy, after that property values dropped, they have seen foreclosures, and the closing of two car dealerships. Now, the city is now looking at another budget deficit.

City government in Vallejo, these days, is like one big, unhappy family. When the money runs short, it gets ugly.

"When the economy is literally changing so fast. As soon as we amend it for less revenues, we have to amend, again, for even less revenues than we thought six months ago, or a year," says Rob Stout, Vallejo's finance manager.

Stout faces a difficult task in front of the city council. He's projecting a $12 million shortfall, next year. That's another 20-percent in this city that has already declared bankruptcy, and now faces even more cuts.

"It has been many years of a structural deficit. We've been spending more than we've been bringing in," says Stephanie Gomes, a Vallejo City Councilmember.

The question is: where to cut now? The city closed two of eight fire stations, last year, including the one closest to a fatal blaze in a senior center, last summer. Now, it may consider two more station closures. The fireman's union says its crews are already stretched to the max.

"We hired three firefighters in 2003. Since 2001, 46 firefighters have retired and we haven't hired any to backfill those positions," says Jon Riley, a Fireman's Union spokesman.

Budget critics say firemen make too much money in salary, overtime, and benefits, along with police. A blanket 20-percent cut in that department would mean 15 lost jobs on an already understaffed force.

"I think the safety of citizens and police is in trouble if they cut additional people," says Matt Mustard, a Police Union spokesman.

One of those lost jobs would probably be Detective Mark Bassett, a Vallejo native who took a pay cut to move back home. He never planned on this.

"Since when does a policeman have to worry about finding work?" asked ABC7's Wayne Fredman.
"In 2009. In Vallejo," said Bassett.

Freedman asked Stout if this was any way to run a city. His answer was the he was worried about providing minimal services.

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