Rptr: Lorraine Dechter
Date: For broadcast 4-30-12 (Mon)
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Many Northstate cities are juggling their budgets to make it through to the beginning of the next fiscal year in the black – and not in the red. Our news director, Lorraine Dechter, talked to Chico’s Assistant City Manager, John Rucker, to find out how Chico’s budget has been altered to make it through to the end of the year.
The city of Chico has demanded cuts in their three major departments to make the budget solvent. We’re talking about the police department, the fire department, and the General Services department. They’ve been asked to cut back their expenditures through the end of the fiscal year, which is the end of June. The amount of the cuts needs to be about $900,000.
How are they doing this? Well the fire department decided to cut back their overtime by closing Station 5 at the entrance to Upper Bidwell Park. Some firefighters decided to protest this decision and were seen picketing at Station 5 last week.
John Rucker, who used to work as the police chief for the city of Chico before he became the Assistant City Manager, says he’d like people to understand that it’s very hard to cut overtime in public service. He says the city is not anything like a manufacturing company producing widgets. In law enforcement, the overtime is mostly unforeseen. If a police officer, for example, takes someone into custody at the end of their shift, they have to stay longer to process the person, file reports, make sure the papers are ready for the next morning for the D.A., or that might need to add overtime for court appearances that are mandated by judges.
Some critics have had trouble understanding why the city can’t just add more people on staff to reduce what sometimes seems like exorbitant overtime costs. With the cost of benefits added in, it’s NOT cheaper to add staff to reduce the budget, insists Rucker. He says it comes out a wash, and he wishes people understood that. Rucker hopes citizens will recognize the commitment and value of the city employees that volunteer to do overtime. He says they could be spending the time at home with their families. And they get tired doing overtime all the time. Rucker says those city employees should be getting more appreciation and recognition – pats on the back — for being willing to take on the overtime load to keep the city and law enforcement and fire protection operational in these difficult economic times.
So when the fiscal year is over, Station 5 could reopen, if the fire chief decides to do that. But as for the rest of 2012, after July 1st, what is in store for the city budget? Rucker says they’ll be working hard through the rest of the fiscal year, looking at the revenues and projected revenues over the next 30-45 days. Then they’ll work up the budget by the end of June for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. For Northstate Public Radio news, I’m Lorraine Dechter