The budget ax keeps swinging in Fairfield, with an upcoming reduction in office hours at city facilities and a deal made by police officers that will lessen, but not guarantee, departmental layoffs, officials announced this week.
At the heart of the matter is a gaping $15 million deficit that apparently is nowhere close to being bridged. Despite the city's best efforts, including slashing the general fund by 24 percent, or $18 million, over the past five years, and lopping 108 full-time positions, more cuts need to be made. But all employees are rallying, officials said, in an effort to keep resources flowing.
"Our city employees really stepped up to the plate, negotiating cuts to their benefits, pay and hours, so that we can begin to close our remaining budget gap. We are all committed to providing the highest levels of service we can, given the current budget constraints," said City Manager Sean Quinn in a prepared statement. "Emergency services will operate as usual."
Staffers reportedly agreed to reduced schedules and a 10-percent pay cut to shrink the budget crunch. City offices -- including City Hall, the senior center, corporation yard and the Fairfield Housing Authority -- will be closed this Friday, and every Friday thereafter. Police and fire administrative offices are already closed on Fridays.
Starting Tuesday, city office hours will change to 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Because operating hours vary, residents are encouraged to visit the city's Web site at www.ci.fairfield.ca.us.
Meanwhile, the Fairfield Police Officers Association recently voted to give up cost-of-living increases for the next three years and to pay more for their health care benefits to help the city ease its budget crisis. Possible retirement reforms are still in the discussion process.
Had concessions not been made, FPOA President Kevin Carella said, the jobs of 19 officers could have been on the chopping block. But with this deal, which still must be approved by the City Council, perhaps nine or 10 officers may lose their jobs. Any loss, the veteran officer emphasized, would hurt the community as well as the department, and is thus ill advised. "We of all communities cannot afford to lose cops," Carella said. "You can't fight crime without police officers."
Gang issues, among others, have long plagued the city and specialized units were formed to address them. Last year, due to increased efforts, major crimes dropped 17 percent as compared to 2008 figures, signaling a 10-year low.
"We made concessions at a critical time," Carella said. "We commit every day to protecting our community and we hope the City Council will continue to help with that goal and refuse to lay off any police officers."