Manteca could have 72 police officers by the start of 2019 and not 71 as approved in the city budget.
And if at least two council members prevail in convincing their elected colleagues of what they want to see happen, Manteca will have 73 officers on the streets sometime in the first half of 2019.
The City Council on Tuesday will consider a staff recommendation to convert the two community resource officer positions currently dedicated to homeless issues to police officers. The department currently has 70 officers
The proposal would include dropping plans to hire the fourth of four officer positions the City Council approved in June in the $40.1 million general fund budget for 2018-2019 to avoid creating a structured deficit — spending more money than is taken in during a given year. The city has more than $20 million in general fund reserves including 25 percent of the funds budgeted to provide day-to-day municipal services such as police and fire to street maintenance and general government.
The staff recommendation is designed to avoid unbalancing the spending document by cutting the fourth position and using the savings to fund the increased payroll costs for six months that will occur when the community resource officers are elevated to police officers. The net result would be $5,000 in savings.
On Thursday two council members — Mike Morowit and Mayor Steve DeBrum — said they intend to push to keep all four positions the council authorized in the budget plus convert the two community resource officers into police officers. That would give Manteca 73 officers before the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2019 and not the 72 the staff’s proposal would allow.
“We (the council) made it clear our top priority is more police officers,” DeBrum said. “We need to have all of the four positions we authorized in the budget onboard by the end of the fiscal year.”
Three of the four positions have already been filled giving Manteca 71 officers — an all-time high.
Morowit said he understands the department would likely not be able to have the fourth officer originally authorized on board by Jan. 1 due to the three new officers as well as four replacement officers who are going from training taxing the department’s training officers.
That said he wants the city to move as quickly as it can to hire the fourth officer as the council directed. Morowit said if the position is dropped from the budget not only would it renege on the commitment elected leaders made to Manteca residents but it would push the position into at least the fall of 2019 if not later if it is rolled into the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
It’s the same sentiment DeBrum expressed saying “if we can’t hire the fourth officer (due to training issues) and have them on the job by January then we need to shoot for February or as soon as we can to have that officer on the street this fiscal year.”
Morowit said as far as the funding is concerned, he is confident sales tax will be robust enough to cover 73 officers. And if it is an issue of the timing of the spending that would take the budget as adopted into “deficit spending” by tapping the reserves, he has no problem doing so.
The change of the classification of the two community resource officers is underscored by the demand statewide for qualified law enforcement officers and the fact the pay Manteca is offering for a community resource officer is likely to create a major retention problem.
The city discovered the impact of qualified candidates and lower pay than police officers receive when it took them over a year to fill the second community resource officer position.
The first step of pay for a community resource officer is $27.55 an hour versus and entry level police officer at $39.84 an hour. The community resource officers have the same authority a police officer does including carrying guns. The community resource officer pay starts out at about $3 less an hour than for a community service officer (CSO) that does not carry guns and cannot do many of the enforcement actions a community resource officer is expected to do.
“As level I Reserve Police Officers they have the same powers, yet the (community resource officer) position (pays) significantly less than a sworn police officer position,” Police Chief Jodie Estarziau said. “. . . This was challenging to keep staffed and most if not all applicants who met the requirement were opting to apply for the sworn police officer position. After this reclassification, they will be police officers and have the same pay, protections, and benefits. They can also be utilized to cover shortages or handle other assignments police officers currently handle.”
The police chief said the two community resource officers once they are upgraded to police officers will be assigned to the homeless endeavor as they are now just like other police officers are assigned as school resource officers.
The difference between the community resource officer and a police officer is $35,000 to $60,000 per year depending on California Public Employment Retirement System classifications as well as workmen’s compensation costs plus health insurance and other benefits.
The City Council meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.
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