By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 05/28/14, 10:49 PM PDT |
SAN BERNARDINO >> Two departments, $84 million in proposed spending and about $7 million in proposed cuts down, a long way to go.
The police and fire departments, which together account for about 70 percent of the $117 million city budget, presented proposed spending plans Wednesday night as the City Council works its way through discussions of a budget that includes steep cuts in multiple areas.
Both departments plan some “outside-the-box thinking” in response to fiscal challenges.
For instance, Police Chief Jarrod Burguan plans to use civilian employees for certain jobs that are traditionally done by sworn police officers, including investigating some cases as part of the Detective Bureau and taking reports when safety isn’t a factor.
Burguan expects that to be more efficient, but the reason has more to do with the difficulty of hiring prepared officers as quickly as they’re leaving, he said.
“We have done fairly good in the last year at getting people into the academy, but we’re just kind of keeping up with attrition right now,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any chance I can get up to the 260 (officers authorized in the budget) this year, based on the rate of hiring. I do think I can get some civilian folks in the door.”
Councilman John Valdivia, who positioned himself as the “constant clanging cymbal” for more officers on the street, asked several times if City Manager Allen Parker had restricted hiring or suggested there should be fewer officers.
Parker said no, but that he had suggested in ongoing negotiations with the police union that given limited dollars there was a trade-off between money spent on benefits for existing police and the ability to hire new officers.
“It’s unacceptable for any city manager to be striking deals suggesting we don’t hire more police officers,” Valdivia said.
Parker said he recognized that lower pay for police was hurting the city’s efforts to recruit and keep officers.
“There’s no doubt that the inability to match what other cities can pay because of the bankruptcy and such puts us at a disadvantage,” he said. “That’s a very real issue that we need to deal with as best we can.”
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