Wednesday Sep 02 2009
Rocklin to reduce staff, budgets at police and fire depts.
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
The Rocklin City Council approved more aggressive measures Saturday to save as much cash reserves as possible as the recession lags on and revenues continue to slide. The city was prepared to draw $1.9 million on its $8-million cash reserves for this budget cycle but the council approved $700,000 in new cost-savings measures during a daylong budget hearing last weekend. “That draw on reserves is not sustainable,” City Manager Carlos Urrutia told the council. “We keep hoping we’ll reach rock bottom.” Rocklin police and fire were directed to join forces with Lincoln police and fire in a consolidated dispatch center that could be housed in Rocklin in the coming months. Both departments will also be required to make cuts in their overtime budget. The Police K-9 unit and School Resource Officer Program were saved from proposed cuts. The council directed the police department to lay off one Community Service Officer and freeze the next police officer vacancy. The fire department was also directed to reorganize staff, which would reduce fire personnel at Fire Station No. 3 on Wildcat Boulevard, on occasion. Fire Chief Bill Mikesell said Rocklin Fire managed to do fine with similar staffing levels when he was hired in 2001. “If people aren’t injured, sick, on vacation and it is not fire season, then we’re going to have two people out there,” Mikesell said. “As much as I would love to have four (fire personnel) at every station, what we have right now is three, and on occasion a station with two.” Fire union Local 3847 President Captain Rick Holmes scolded council members for targeting the fire department for new cuts. “It is disheartening to me,” Holmes said. “I would ask you to determine what core services are and save those core services. In my personal opinion, we are at a skeleton crew and to reduce that further would be irresponsible.” Mikesell said his No. 1 priority is public and firefighter safety. “(When citizens) call 911 and need someone in a hurry, that knows what they’re doing, that’s what we’re going to try to provide. Even in these times,” Mikesell said. Council members waved off proposals to create a fire subscription fee, a policy to bill accident victims for the wreck clean-up and emergency response or mandate another furlough day for city workers. During the hearing, some city employees heard as their jobs were eliminated. Greg Beauchamp, a Rocklin fleet division worker, pleaded with council to stop outsourcing work and keep his job. “I am a single father with a 13-year-old son,” Beauchamp said. “Now I won’t be able to provide him things like healthcare.” According to city documents, eliminating the mechanic position could save the city $30,000 this fiscal year and $60,000 next year. The city has already shrunk staff from 310 employees to 270. With up to 26 positions targeted for elimination, the council paired it down to eight to 10, Urrutia said. Mayor Peter Hill said the tough cost-cutting decisions were the hardest of his 26 years with Rocklin. “I am saddened we are forced to reduce staff and make cutbacks,” Hill said. Hill said much of the pain of the recession is being doubled by decisions by the state Legislature who voted to borrow $1.2 million in property tax revenues and $1.7 million in redevelopment funds from the city. “I am not happy to be forced into a position by our state government that we have to make cuts to our staff,” Hill said. “I look forward to the day when we can begin to build a great city again.”