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Budget crisis may take out SWAT, K-9 cops
Police chief outlines potential cost cutting measures
Police Chief Dave Bricker explains possible budget cutting strategies during a meeting of the 15-member citizen budget committee Thursday. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Unless April revenue reports shower the city coffers with more money, May will bring $5.5 million in more budget cuts to keep the City of Manteca general fund in the black.

Strategies to accomplish that involving law enforcement may mean disbanding special teams ranging from SWAT to K-9 units, reducing the ranks of school resource officers, eliminating community service officers and crime analysis, wiping out the traffic enforcement unit, cutbacks on narcotics and gang units, and discontinuing un-reimbursed support for school district functions ranging from sports games to Every 15 Minutes. It is part of a laundry list that Police Chief Dave Bricker has devised that could help a 15-member citizens budget advisory panel advise the City Council on what to cut next.

The city has already put in place cost saving strategies expected to bridge half of the projected $11.3 million deficit expected to develop in the fiscal year starting July 1. City Manager Steve Pinkerton emphasized Thursday the exact size of the deficit “is a moving target that changes daily.” He added, though, that staff will base the final budget proposal it prepares for the 2009-10 fiscal year on revenue trends in April plus parameters adopted by the council with the help of the 15-member committee.

The $11.3 million deficit is based on spending trends at the start of the current fiscal year using updated revue trends from December. The city will not be in deficit territory this budget thanks largely to a $6 million infusion into the general fund of bonus bucks paid for residential sewer allocation certainty.

When several members of the committee indicated they didn’t favor cutting back law enforcement’s presence, Bricker made it clear that it wasn’t that easy.

“We’re (the police department) only the most important thing in the city until your toilets don’t flush,” Bricker said underscoring the importance of all city functions.

Bricker said reductions that may have to be taken would be done with the goal of “protecting our core business – having a black and white unit respond to (priority) calls.”

Bricker said that while all functions of the department are important the most critical in terms of fighting crime as it happens is a presence on the streets,

Bricker noted Manteca has experienced a 3 percent drop in crime in the past year while nearby cities have seen virtually the opposite. He credited the department’s “hard working and dedicated officers” plus the ability to harness technology to allow officers to work smarter.

The department is authorized 119 employees and has 13 vacant general fund positions including a captain, a sergeant, four police officers, four community service officers, a dispatcher, a support services manager, and a booking officer. Those vacancies account for $1 million in savings that are factored into the roughly $5.5 million deficit reducing steps being put in place for next year.

The department is also delaying hiring five additional Measure M police officers due to a drop in the half cent sales tax recipts. He noted that Measure M funding now accounts for 10 percent of all of the department’s sworn front-line personnel.

Bricker said he judges effectiveness of the department not on officers per 1,000 residents but in the average response time to various calls.

The department’s goal is to respond to priority one or life and safety calls within three minutes. Currently the department accomplishes that goal 90.2 percent of the time.

For priority two calls, which are stable but could worsen and become priority one if not handled soon, the goal is to respond within 30 minutes. Manteca officers are meeting that goal 87.5 percent of the time.

Priority three calls for general service – “there are the ones where someone wakes up and discovers a lawn gnome has been stolen,” Bricker said – have a 60-minute response time goal. They currently reach that goal 79.2 percent of the time but often the wait for an officer can go two to four hours due to more pressing calls.