The union representing most Santa Barbara city employees — Service Employees International Union Local 620 — has agreed to the equivalent of a 6-percent pay cut in the form of unpaid furloughed work days, while negotiators for the Police Officers Association and city administrators can’t even agree what to call the dueling contract offers both sides have put on the table.
Giving the negotiations a sense of urgency, city administrators are projecting a $9-million budget shortfall to the city’s general fund, which has to be reconciled by a combination of cuts, new revenues, and accounting tricks no later than June 30. To this end, city administrators are seeking to exact roughly $3 million in wage and benefit concessions from its bargaining units before that time. If such concessions are not agreed upon, city hall negotiators have said the difference will have to be made up by layoffs and service reductions. According to the city’s lead negotiator, Christie Schmidt, the concessions offered by SEIU will save the general fund $950,000 and city hall $1.9 million in total. That translates into 116 hours a year of unpaid furloughs per worker. In exchange, SEIU won an agreement of no involuntary layoffs. Without such an agreement, Schmidt said, as many as 21 positions could have been in jeopardy.
The Police Officers Association (POA) has proven more stubborn at the bargaining table. Two meetings between the two sides have now taken place; Schmidt claims she has offered the union a package worth 7.75 percent in cuts to pay, benefits, and retirement. But Detective Jaycee Hunter of the POA said the real number is 10 percent. Hunter said the union offered 4 percent worth of cuts — $580,000 — but likewise, Schmidt said the real number was considerably less than that.
The POA has hired economist Peter Donahue, of San Francisco, to examine city hall’s books to determine if additional reserves could be located. He claims, for example, that there is $22 million in the city’s internal services account from charges that city administrators levy on different departments for rent, maintenance, and other essential upkeep costs. Some of these charges are excessive, he contended. For example, he said the Police Department is charged $300 for an oil change by city-employed mechanics. If the Police Department were given a pass for such expenses, he argued, the fiscal pinch could be alleviated. But city finance czar Bob Samario dismissed allegations of a $300 oil change as “just silly.” Samario said the $300 covers not just a change of oil, lubrication fluids, and filters, but also an extensive series of diagnostic tests to ensure that the police cruisers are roadworthy.