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Rohnert Park faces tough choices as it looks for cuts

By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Rohnert Park officials Tuesday will set out on what in recent years has been a wrenching, often politically perilous process: combing through a new city budget while trying to determine where to make cuts.

The agenda for Tuesday’s 1 p.m. meeting at City Hall suggests the City Council will face decisions as tough as any they made last year, when they cut the city’s workforce by 34 positions, shut swimming pools and reduced park upkeep to achieve nearly $3 million in savings.

Interim City Manager John Dunn, in a memo to the council, department heads and employee groups, said financial projections show the city must cut $800,000 to $1 million in each of the next six years to be on a “positive financial path at the end of that period.”

And while the proposed $25 million 2011-2012 budget currently envisions no layoffs or service cuts, Dunn plows into equally nettlesome territory, repeatedly raising the question of the city’s labor costs, especially in the area of benefits.

“If bilateral agreement is not reached in these matters, then there maybe no choice but to further cut personnel and services to our citizens,” he wrote in a memo entitled “Employee Pay and Benefits — A Thought Paper.”

He raised concerns about stipends public safety officers earn for extra assignments, duties or qualifications.

“I have never seen such a list of stipends or the fact that they are cumulative and not limited to some specific amounts,” Dunn said.

He said that Department of Public Safety stipend pay rose from $445,000 in the 2006-2007 fiscal year to $773,984 last year.

Representatives of the city’s public safety officers’ union did not respond to requests for comment Monday, but in the past have said that officers agreed to furloughs that amounted to 9 percent pay cuts and that eight police officers and firefighters were lost to layoffs or attrition last year.

Representatives of other city employee unions, whose benefits — particularly paid time off, such as vacations and holidays — Dunn also highlights, greeted his remarks warily.

Asked whether his 26 member Service Employees International Union unit, which represents public works employees, would be willing to consider reductions in benefits or pay, shop steward Jim McIntyre said: “Not at this stage. I believe other units have some catching up to do with our unit, to be honest with you.”

He wouldn’t specify which units he was referring to, but said that the union has other proposals to bring forward that reduce costs without cutting pay or benefits.

Angie Smith, president of the Rohnert Park Employees Association, which represents clerical and office staff, said: “We’ve taken significant cuts. Not only we have taken significant salary and benefit cuts we have lost a huge percentage of employees in our group.”

The association is down to 26 employees from 45 a little over a year ago.

Council members said they welcomed the meeting, which Dunn has termed a “conversation,” as a chance to build on progress the city, with the passage in June of a half-cent sales tax measure, has made toward fiscal health.

“We have to put things back on track,” said Councilman Jake Mackenzie, who said increases in pay and benefit levels trace back to the early and mid-2000′s.

“It’s a conversation that really needs to take place and it’s one that’s going to take political courage.”





7 Responses to “Rohnert Park faces tough choices as it looks for cuts”

  1. Mark says:

    These are the same people who REFUSED to make any real cuts for their community and Forced them to pass a half cent tax to keep them at the top of the food chain.

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  2. Tired of the whining says:

    @Ray Lester

    Please look closely at the pension plan for emergency workers. 90% is only achieved after a full 30 years of service. Few employees are lucky to be able to give 30 years of emergency service work.

    They are allowed to retire out at 50 years of age for one VERY GOOD reason. Do you really want a 65 year old police officer of firefighter coming to save your life. The job is just too physically demanding. And one will only receive 90% at age 50 if they started when they were 20 years old. Not very common.

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  3. Dan L says:

    I lived in Rohnert park for almost 20 years before moving away. I remember that RP was ALWAYS in financial trouble. Even before Walmart and Costco and Home Depot. Public service is vastly overpaid and there seems to be mindless wandering on the part of the city council. I attended a few town council meetings and decided that everyone was self rightous and greedy. I am so glad I moved!!!!

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  4. Ray Lester says:

    I’ll be a policeman or firefighter and I’ll do it for 25% less a year than current officers and I’ll pay a into my own pension and I’ll pay a % of the cost of benefits. And there are plenty of guys just like me who would do the same. As of now, public employees have salaries and benefits package that cannot be matched in the private sector. NOBODY RETIRES WITH 90% OF THEIR SALARY IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR WITH ALL BENEFITS PAID AND COST OF LIVING INCREASES. Wake up electorate!

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  5. bill says:

    It never ceases to amaze me that the public safety employees are the highest paid and the hardest to get rid of. It appears the public isn’t safe from them.

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 4

  6. Fat Cat Managers says:

    Isn’t Jake Mackenzie the guy who thought it was just fine to hire a City Manager this year for over 200k? Why is he cutting salaries for the workers but ok with huge ridiculous salaries for managers? This is just like City of Bell! Everyone complains about unions and pensions but the real rip off are these high level administrators making six figures! Cut their salary first!

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  7. Graeme Wellington says:

    They had to pay this guy $100,000 plus to state the obvious? Make a decision. Isn’t that what leaders are supposed to do? Why must he go through the charade of “having a conversation” with the employees? Just come up with a budget in line with actual revenue and that’s enough. Hard lessons have to be learned the hard way. Chances are the city council will overturn his decisions anyway and continue spending more than they have. Please, please, please all Rohnert Park residents: VOTE ALL INCUMBENTS OUT. Don’t vote for any former Rohnert Park leaders either. It has to be a clean sweep across the board. Nobody here can make a G. D. decision. When you have a problem that can be solved by making a decision to solve it, there’s no reason to keep “leadership” in power. The ballot box is the only solution.

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