Digital News Report – The recession and rising costs have put cities in a bind. Public officials are trying to figure out what programs and services can be trimmed-back, but it hasn’t been easy.
While Watsonville laid-off 11 of their public safety workers, rising costs in Santa Cruz has officials considering cuts in police and transportation. Police officers have already agreed to concessions in pay and pensions, and now the city is considering a 50 cent increase in bus fairs.
Santa Cruz provides numerous services, including police, fire, flood control and parks. The city also operates the wharf and performing arts center. They provide water, trash pick-up and sewage services for 90,000 residents.
The police department did bring in $256,000 in asset seizures and tickets, but that barely covers some of the salaries. Tax revenue pays the bulk of the expenses. The department spends over $18 million a year in salaries and $4 million in miscellaneous services and supplies.
At $22 million per year, police is by far the cities biggest expense followed by fire at $12 million. Law enforcement accounts for nearly 40 percent of the total budget.
In 2010 the city spent $20.98 million on police services. This year the city has budgeted $23.2 million but may only spend $22.23 million. In 2012 city officials are proposing to spend $22.9 million.
The city is asking some employee groups to accept a new system for new-hires. In April the police agreed to 11 percent of the city’s contribution to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System for two years. The firefighters agreed to pay three percent. That is on top of nine percent both groups already agreed to put towards their pensions.
The city does want public input. On Tuesday June 7th the city will be holding a special budget hearing. The meeting will begin at 8:30 am and likely last all day. City Hall is located at 809 Center Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060.
By Mark Williams