Contentious budget battles continue in San Jose

June 22, 2010 9:59:16 PM PDT
Bay Area budget battles are putting police in the hot seat. Police officers in the Bay Area's three largest cities are being called upon to help make ends meet.

Officers in San Francisco turned out in force Tuesday to vote on concessions to their union contracts. In Oakland, 200 officers are at risk of losing their jobs so that the city can overcome its deficit.

In San Jose, both police and firefighters are pushing back against calls for pay cuts. The president of the Police Officers Association there says they have made an offer to the city and are willing to negotiate.

There appears to be a stalemate, but city leaders did get some of what they wanted as five unions stepped up to the plate with about $14 million in concessions. That means library hours will be saved and 22 community centers will stay open.

"It saved the 10 percent that we needed for our budget. I think our community and our employees should feel really well about what they did," said San Jose Vice Mayor Judy Chirco.

The unions, representing 1,600 employees, gave in to city demands and came up with 10 percent cuts to pay and benefits. Those city workers say they did their part to close the $118 million budget gap, but say the pay cuts will take a toll on a personal level.

"Some people will lose their homes. It's very clear that they will. Others may have to move out of the community. So, we have people that will really truly suffer," union leader Cay Denise Mackenzie said.

Police and firefighters have so far refused to give up 10 percent of their compensation. Unlike some of the other unions, the City Council cannot force pay cuts on public safety officers, so the mayor says avoiding layoffs in those departments is in the hands of those unions.

"It's really up to them," Reed said. "We've said if the firefighters want to avoid firefighter layoffs, that they need to do some concessions. If the police officers want to avoid layoffs, they need to do some concessions."

They mayor has asked for the same 10 percent amounting to a savings of $34 million. He says that would protect 144 police jobs and 85 firefighters. San Jose Police Chief Rob Davis is hoping last-minute negotiations can save jobs, but if not, layoffs will take place.

"So, there'll be some patrol cuts and there'll also be some detective cuts," he said. "What that means, is just a huge impact to our patrol force. It's about 8 percent of our patrol force that would be laid off. So, huge cuts for us."

Officials say the president of the firefighters union was in meetings all day Tuesday and unable to respond to calls from ABC7.

The council's final meeting is scheduled for one week from today. Layoff notices will be sent out July 1 and take affect Aug. 1.


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