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Will council cut police force by 16 officers?

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POSTED September 28, 2009 1:02 a.m.

Manteca could end up with 30 percent less police officers over the next few months between retirements and the threatened lay-off of 16 officers by mid-October.

The Manteca Police Officers Association has rejected the city’s request to forgo negotiated pay raises in 2010 and 2011 plus lose uniform allowances for the next two years as well as pay more into their retirement.

If the MPOA maintains its position, they will essentially be forcing the Manteca City Council to make the final call on whether to cut the police force. There are currently 77 sworn officers. The city budget originally authorized 83 positions. Besides the 16 possible layoffs, another seven officers may retire.

The MPOA equates this to a 14 percent pay cut on what the contract they inked with the city was supposed to guarantee them through the end of 2012. The four-year contract was made before the mortgage meltdown that worsened the economic slowdown and then drove down property tax and sales tax receipts which are the city’s two biggest sources of funding for the general fund that covers the cost of public safety and other functions such as streets and parks. Employee compensation accounts for close to 85 percent of the general fund’s expenditures.

Although each officer is impacted slightly different due to where they are on the salary schedule the typical out of pocket under the proposal – should they accept it – would come to about $100 a pay check  based on 24 pay periods a year plus the $1,000 once-a-year clothing allowance.

That means a typical police officer would have their checks reduced $3,400 a year for the next two years. They also would be giving up future pay they don’t yet have – two back-to-back 4 percent cost of living increases.

If the council does go ahead with the layoff of officers, once the city receives $1.4 million in promised stimulus funds to hire police officers for a four year period with the fourth year on the city’s dime, four of the officers would be hired back.

The retirements – which could run as high as seven officers – won’t occur for the most part until spring meaning they’d have minimal impact if any on this year’s budget.

City Manager Steve Pinkerton said the city would have to examine revenue at the time the positions become vacant as to whether they could afford to replace the retiring officer or the leave the position vacant.

Thirty-day layoff notices were sent to 248 City of Manteca employees on Sept. 10.

Ultimately – if the employee bargaining groups effected don’t agree to a proposal to basically forgo cost of living increases for the next two years plus having to pay more out-of-pocket for retirement – at least 54 of those layoff notices will translate to the loss of jobs in mid-October.

The Manteca Police Employee Association that represents criminal technicians, community service officers, dispatchers, and other police support services has already agreed to the proposal and won’t be receiving lay-off notices as have the city department managers.

 Asking the groups to forgo negotiated 4 percent cost of living increases for the next two years was part of the strategy of giving up future income in lieu of a larger chunk of their current paychecks.

Even if all of the employee groups agree, there will still be $700,000 remaining of the deficit for 2009-10 that originally started at $14 million.

Pinkerton said staff believes there are other ways to bridge that remaining gap through leaving positions vacant as retirements come up in the next nine months to other ways of reducing expenses.

Virtually all of the financial impacts on employees - out-of-pocket losses plus future pay losses – would take place starting Jan. 1, 2010.

The layoffs – should they ultimately happen – would break down as follows:
•10 firefighters.
•16 police officers
•About 30 general services employees.

The reason the number of actual notices being sent out is so high - 248 out of 350 employees – has everything to do with bargaining agreements in place. Police and fire servcie are clear cut on who has seniority. It is different in other departments where someone with seniority – who may be the “last hired” on the street crew for example may actually have worked 15 years in the parks division which means they have a higher seniority when it comes to layoffs.

There also have been a number of transfers between departments in recent months in a bid to move workers from general fund accounts into enterprise fund account vacancies such as water, sewer, and garbage collection positions that are supported by ratepayers. Essentially, the personnel department needed to sort out the employment history of each employee with the city before determining exactly who will get laid off if it comes to that.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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