SJ City Council delays vote on budget cuts

June 15, 2010 11:22:00 PM PDT
The San Jose City Council is asking city employees to share the pain as it grapples with a $118 million budget deficit but union leaders have been putting up a fight.

For San Jose libraries, the worst case scenario is that branches would be open only three days a week and the equivalent of 110 full-time jobs are eliminated. Twenty-two community centers could also close their doors.

"If they were to close early or cut down the hours, it would really hurt a lot of people that come here regularly like I do," library patron Ghya Ramirez said.

The city has asked employee unions to help solve the $118 million budget gap by reducing salary and benefit packages by 10 percent. City leaders say they do not want to impose those terms on the unions but it could come to that.

"We either take 10 percent or we close down the services that the residents expect," City Council member Pierluigi Olivero said.

"Times are tough, people need to share in the pain and sacrifice," City Council member Madison Nguyen said.

The city cannot force pay reductions on police and firefighters, but if those unions do not make concessions, more than 220 public safety positions could be eliminated.

"I think we need to tone down the rhetoric and everybody needs to work together and I think that's happening," City Council member Rose Herrera said.

The eleventh-hour debate though is heated with one pro-union council member blasting the mayor's budget message that demands cuts in employee wages.

"I've yet to see leadership on our mayor on being able to solve a deficit with everyone involved," City Council member Nora Campos said.

"I've done it three times in the past and I'm going to do number four today," Mayor Chuck Reed said.

What is clear is that after months of budget debate, tough choices are inevitable.

"Everybody is pretty depressed and really waiting to see what's going to happen; we just don't know," library branch manager Gayleen Thomas said.

It is still unclear if the City Council will impose the cuts on the unions. It is one of a series of budget related votes taking place.


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