10:00 PM PDT on Saturday, June 11, 2011

By DARRELL R. SANTSCHI
The Press-Enterprise

A proposed Highland spending plan is being balanced without layoffs or cuts in services and includes $155 million worth of planned public improvements over the next five years.

“This budget is essentially balanced,” City Manager Joe Hughes told City Council members recently in outlining a two-year municipal budget. But he warned that cuts may come if San Bernardino County is unable to stave off two pay raises for sheriff’s deputies in the coming year.

The city is dipping into its reserves to pay $63,000 a year to add a gang crime detective to the force of deputies working for the city under a $6.8 million contract with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

Hughes said the city has set aside enough money to accommodate a 2.5 percent increase in the cost of the contract.

County spokesman David Wert said the deputies’ labor contract calls for them to receive 2 percent raises next month and another 2 percent raise Dec. 31.

The county has asked the deputies’ union, the San Bernardino County Safety Employees Benefit Association, for retirement and health benefit concessions aimed at saving $30 million. The union offered to suspend pay raises for the next three years.

Union President Lauren Leichliter said by phone that the county wanted more concessions than deputies are willing to give up, so talks have ceased.

He said the union expects the county to provide the raises.

“That’s what we’re due,” Leichliter said.

Hughes told the council that the city cannot afford two cost of living raises.

Highland’s proposed budget calls for $15.3 million in general fund spending in the fiscal year that begins July 1 and $14.7 million in 2012-13.

The spending plan also calls for $155 million in major capital projects over the next five years.

Some of that money will come from the city treasury, but most of it will be paid for with redevelopment, state and federal grants and county flood-control funds.

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