Santa Barbara City officials are planning to eliminate as many as 52 positions in the next year. Of those, said financial director Robert Pierson, about 30 represent actual people, the remainder being vacant positions that will remain unfilled. Confronting a $9 million shortfall next year, City Hall aims to negotiate “contract give-backs” with its police, fire, and general employees unions that would defer raises and mandate furloughs. The three unions have informally agreed to discussions, but have also banded together to hire an outside accountant to confirm that the city’s finances are as dire as described. Adding an additional layer of complexity, four seats are up for grabs in this year’s City Council election, and all three unions are major political donors. The council came under fire on Tuesday from fiscal conservatives for approving a contract that gives its waterfront patrol officers, wastewater, and water plant workers a 4-percent raise over the next two years. But the union representing these workers-Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 620-agreed to defer the two pay hikes for six months. The Taxpayers Association blistered the deal, and Terry Tyler, who has previously run for the council, suggested the union should have taken pay reductions. He also argued that those councilmembers who’ve received donations from SEIU in the past should refrain from voting on the contract due to conflict of interest. Mayor Marty Blum skeptically noted that Tyler made no mention of the donations made by the police union. The council approved the contract 6-0. Councilmember Dale Francisco was absent.