Police Yield to Budget Crunch

The union representing Santa Barbara police officers agreed to take a $260,000 one-time hit in response to the city’s $10.5-million budget shortfall. While that may not seem like much compared to the $1.6 million in concessions agreed to by the Service Employees International Union Local 620-which represents about 500 city employees-or the $1.6 million in concessions agreed upon by waterfront security and managers, it constitutes a big deal in the context of the intense politics surrounding city budget deliberations. The Police Officer’s Association (POA) sent a letter to City Administrator Jim Armstrong last Friday announcing its members agreed not to cash out untaken vacation time. According to POA chief Sgt. Charles McChesney, that’s worth about $260,000. Until that point, city administrators regarded the police union as the most intransigent when it came to even discussing possible givebacks. McChesney took pains to stress that the decision did not emerge out of negotiations but because the union concluded City Hall had taken significant steps to buffer the police from budget cuts. “We’ve always been willing to help,” said McChesney, who noted that the budget proposal now under consideration is a lot gentler to the department than the one first proposed. McChesney said the union had been lobbied by councilmembers Das Williams, Iya Falcone, and Helene Schneider to make some sort of concession. Under the most recent budget proposal, city police will retain 140 positions and patrol strength will be maintained at current levels. Some of the civilian positions that have traditionally supported the sworn officers will be eliminated or cut back. Councilmember Dale Francisco is working to reinstate $150,000 for the range manager and an automotive computer specialist. Whether that happens will be determined next week.

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