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Rocklin approves police, fire layoffs

Council directs city to cut $4 million from budget
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Rocklin approved another round of layoffs including police and firefighter paramedics.

The Rocklin City Council made the hard choices Saturday during a budget hearing to fill in a $2.5 million deficit and free up money for more problems. In all, a total of $4 million in cuts was proposed.

City Manager Carlos Urrutia said with continued revenue declines the city will be out of cash by 2012, if not sooner, if cuts are not made.

“It is time for the citizens to recognize that we’re cutting services,” said Councilman Peter Hill. “We’ve cut all the fat out and we’re now cutting important parts of the city.”

Police department

In the majority direction, Mayor Scott Yuill, Councilmen George Magnuson and Hill approved a 5 percent cut in police services, which directs Chief Mark Siemens to eliminate 1,600 hours of patrol staffing, the department’s last K-9 and a traffic sergeant. It would also lay off a traffic motorcycle officer and freeze three vacant positions.

Fire department

Yuill, Magnuson and Hill also approved a 5 percent cut in fire services, which directed Chief Bill Mikesell to lay off three employees, including two firefighter paramedics. The cuts would also eliminate programs including the Child Passenger Safety Seats, Juvenile Fire Setter and reduce some training. Council directed the staff to develop a revenue- generating program that would charge non-residents for fire response to accident scenes.

Public works and parks

All five council members approved an 8 percent cut to public works, facilities and parks, which would lay off two positions. The council directed staff to put back $24,000 into the budget for water and fertilizer so the parks wouldn’t turn brown.

Recreation - general services

All five council members agreed on more than $600,000 in recreation cuts, which would raise program fees and reduce service levels, privatize the theater program and could eliminate up to five employees. Preschool fees would increase $2 per class and Kids Junction after-school program would increase 25 cents an hour.

The council also asked staff to put more business advertising in the recreation program pamphlet and look into a way to have the aquatics program sponsored by the community and/or businesses.

Administration

Lund, Magnuson and Hill approved an 8 percent reduction in administration costs, which would reduce office expenses, eliminate the Employee Assistance Program and service awards for employees. The council directed staff to use a tech fund to save information technology staff members from losing their jobs this year.

Legislative

In the majority direction, Lund, Hill and Magnuson directed staff to cut more than $120,000 in legal expenses that include money for city council, elections and a federal lobbyist for city business. The move would also cut the Deputy City Attorney’s working hours in half.

Community development

All five council members approved an 8 percent cut to community development, which would cut operating expenses and funding for the interim assistant city manager as well as eliminate a building inspector.

Employee concessions

While the budget deficit is only $2.5 million, council directed the city manager to negotiate with the three employee unions to secure up to an additional $1.5 million employee pay cuts, which could come in the form of another furlough day. Currently the city is closed on Fridays for employee furloughs.
“If concessions are taken, the degree of layoffs could be minimized,” said Mayor Yuill.

The mayor hopes the $4 million in proposed cuts will give the city some breathing room with potentially more revenue declines on the horizon.
“Other unknown factors exist,” Yuill said. “The gas tax may be decreased or eliminated by the state and sales tax may continue to fall. If revenues are lower than expected, the city would be short more than $2.5 million.”

The city may also take a hit in property taxes. City officials estimate a $450,000 reduction in property tax revenues due to the ongoing housing crisis, which decreased property values.

“We still have to adopt a budget and there could still be issues that change,” Yuill said. “If there is going to be any other money I want it to go to public safety.”

The new budget is due by May.