Word is circulating that city officials are considering laying off six police officers – a position that previously had not been affected by the staff reductions due to concerns about crime in Antioch. The police cuts might include elimination of the Community Action Team and traffic control.
City Manager Jim Jakel declined to comment on the rumor, but said that the City Council will be discussing the 2009-10 budget at a meeting on either June 16, 17 or 18, depending on the availability of council members. “Can’t comment on the future outlook for layoffs, but the projected deficit for fiscal 09-10 still stands at $4.5 million,” said Jakel via e-mail.
The deficit might be even worse than that if state government takes $1.6 million from Antioch’s property tax funding, with the understanding that it would be paid back with interest in three years. That would put the city’s deficit at $6.1 million in the coming year. The City Council on May 26 unanimously passed a resolution protesting the possible state takeaway.
“The proposal to borrow or take city property tax revenue will make the fiscal hardships we are already facing even more severe,” Jakel told council members before they passed the resolution. “It’s money we can ill afford to quote-unquote loan to the state. We’ll join another 100 cities (in California) that are taking similar action.”
Councilman Brian Kalinowski, who serves on the council’s budget subcommittee with Mayor Jim Davis, predicted that residents might not like some of the budget-cutting recommendations they are discussing, particularly if the $4.5 million deficit becomes a $6.1 million deficit with the state takeaway.
“At some point we really will run out of money,” said Kalinowski. “We are at ’98 revenues. Overall we have some extremely difficult decisions to make. I was not happy with the first layoffs or the removal of hours for city staff, which results in a 10-percent pay cut, and all of these other issues associated with cuts.
“Frankly, some of the (budget subcommittee) recommendations may have people scratching their heads and going, ‘Why would you ever do that?’ But we have to bring them all forward and see what sticks and how we can bridge that gap. Because I don’t know how we are going to do $4.6 (million). That just tells you there’s no way we can do $6.2.”
Councilman Reggie Moore rhetorically asked, “Are you suggesting that folks that are inclined to call the governor’s office, call the governor’s office to request very strongly that he leave local tax revenues alone?”
Later in the meeting, Jakel expanded on Kalinowski’s remarks about the subcommittee recommendations.
“That work will be critical, because while we are operating in a two-year budget, we are facing a very significant situation, in spite of all of the (budget-cutting) steps we’ve taken,” he said. “There is a high degree of interest, obviously, inside the (City Hall) building. The employees are doing a great job. Morale is surprisingly strong under the duress that the employees are feeling. On the other hand, we have some really, really difficult decisions in the next couple of weeks.”
Earlier in the meeting, Antioch resident Martin Fernandez said he was impressed with the city’s Public Works staff at a recent open house that he attended, and he would hate to see them go.
“All the employees were all happy,” he said. “I don’t know how the hell they can be happy with the (budget) circumstances they are working under. They are like family. I would urge this council before laying anybody else off if you can sell property or something. There has to be something to save these people that we can do.”