Ten positions in the Placentia Police Department could be left vacant, one of the many cost-saving cuts put before the Placentia City Council this month to help offset a projected $3.6 million deficit in the city’s 2010-2011 fiscal budget.
Placentia has been plagued for years by a structural deficit, and the low revenue flow into the city’s coffers this year translates into more of the same.
Permit building fees, the business license and hotel tax, the gas tax, and sales and use tax all remain substantially lower than fiscal year 2008-09. The property tax is also lower than from a year ago by 1 percent.
The cuts could target part-time city employees, recreational and maintenance services, budget adjustments and workforce reallocation. Currently, the city’s operating costs are $30.5 million in expenditures and $26.9 million in general fund revenue.
The budget is set to be ratified Tuesday.
Nearly one-third of the money needed to close the deficit would come from the Placentia Police Department, which has a budget of $11.4 million.
Under the proposed budget, the department would leave 10 positions vacant at a potential savings of $1.1 million. Among the positions left vacant would be a replacement second police captain, two detectives and five police officers.
“We have not seen any increase in crime as a result of being understaffed by 10 positions,” Placentia City Administrator Troy Butzlaff said. “We haven’t really increased by a great deal the number of problems over the past year operating under this model.”
The Placentia Police Department has 46 officers to protect 51,000 Placentia residents, Police Chief Jim Anderson said. So far for the year, Anderson said, calls for service and the number of crimes against people have been down.
Among the consequences of leaving these positions vacant is the police force will become more reactive than proactive in stopping crime, Anderson said.
The cuts, Anderson said, mean that police will not have as much time for such things as making sure parolees are complying with the terms of their release. He also said narcotics enforcement, search warrant services, and proactive gang enforcement could receive less attention from officers.
The cuts will also affect city maintenance and mean reduced hours for recreational services made available to the city’s youth. The proposed budget cuts the teen center’s hours of operation, cancels the Cathy Torrez summer program, and cancels the newly introduced Samp Park and Los Vaqueros summer program.
The city will also offer early retirement packages to 11 employees over age 55. Those who leave early will receive retiree pension and healthcare benefits and be offered the chance to return to work for the city as part-time employees.
The program will also be opened up to some employees near age 55 but under different conditions, Butzlaff said.
A big, looming question for the Placentia City Council and city administrators is what kind of action Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state’s legislators will take to reduce California’s enormous budget deficit.
The city’s share of gas and highway use taxes could be snatched by the state in the months ahead, causing even more budget problems for the city.
“At this point we are not looking down the road a long way,” Mayor Pro Tem Constance Underhill said. “We’re looking to make it through next year, and have a little bit of money on hand in case of an emergency.”
— JOHN SAKATA