San Jose council devises a budget plan with cuts

June 21, 2011 6:06:03 PM PDT
In San Jose, the city finally has a budget deal after a brutal fight over it. The council agreed on a plan Tuesday, but no one is happy about what they had to do.

It will be a painful budget; even city council members have to take a 10 percent cut as well as Mayor Chuck Reed who voluntarily is taking an almost 15 percent pay cut. They all agreed pain is not good, but it is necessary.

The cuts to city services will be severe, so severe that Mayor Chuck Reed wants the city council to declare a fiscal and public safety emergency.

"The 500 people that we cut out of the budget this year is in addition to the 800 people that we cut out last year, so we're in a bad position which is why I'm asking the council to declare a fiscal emergency," said Reed.

The mayor and council members had a formidable task to get their fiscal house in order. They had to balance a $954 million budget with a $115 million deficit. Here's how they did it: Every city employee will take a 10 percent cut in pay and benefits, 500 city positions will be eliminated, which includes possibly 100 police officers, and library hours will be cut by a half day a week.

Ben Field of the South Bay Labor Council says the budget didn't have to be as bad as it is.

"The mayor and his allies repeatedly voted against using other funds that are available to pay for police and other neighborhood services," said Field.

The city is however looking at a federal grant which may save some of the officers' jobs. A similar federal grant brought back most of the 49 firefighters laid off last year. The city was able to prevent cuts this year to the senior nutrition project and related wellness programs.

Regardless, these are mainly one-time solutions. That's why mayor reed wants a special election for a ballot measure that would reform the pension program which he says is draining the city's coffers. However, police union president George Beattie told ABC7 his members are opposed to the ballot measure.

"We're trying to say, 'Look, let's sit down and bargain the pension issue as opposed to running off to the ballot to have voters decide on something they're not 100 percent knowledgeable about," said Beattie.

The mayor was going to ask the city council on Tuesday to declare a fiscal state of emergency and he was going to ask them to adopt the language of that ballot measure he was referring to and possibly run it in the November election, but he decided to defer both issues until August and then possibly run that ballot measure in the spring of 2012. What that does is it gives the city and the unions more time to possibly work out a pension reform deal without having to go to the voters.


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