Police union won't budge

GLENDALE — The Glendale Police Officers Assn. has declined to reopen its contract for possible concessions on a planned 6% raise despite repeated pleas from the City Council as it works to close a projected $9.7-million budget deficit before July 1, according to an e-mail obtained by the Glendale News-Press.

The City Council last week agreed to postpone a planned budget study session as city executives continued to hold out for possible concessions, and police union President Larry Ballesteros has repeatedly described talks with the city as ongoing.

But in an e-mail sent Monday from the leadership of the Glendale Police Officers Assn. to City Hall, the union notified council members that it “declines your request to modify the contract for the upcoming fiscal year, July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010.”

Ballesteros could not be reached for comment Friday.

City Manager Jim Starbird on Friday described the association’s decision as “tremendously disappointing” and said that, in the absence of any union concessions, executives would likely recommend 5% in cuts to the Police Department, an option that includes potential lay offs of sworn officers.

The police union has been under increased pressure to make concessions after the other three city employee associations agreed earlier this year to either forgo planned cost-of-living pay increases or cede other planned pay bumps.

In May, the council gave direction for cuts as high as 7.5% for the majority of the city’s departments, but the council, hoping to avoid laying off sworn officers, held off on the Police Department, noting that pay concessions could help alleviate budget issues.

The lack of concessions makes it more likely that deeper cuts will have to be elsewhere, officials said.

As part of the police union’s four-year contract negotiated in 2007, all officers are due a 6% increase on July 1. Each 1% concession would have saved about $347,000, with a full concession penciling out to nearly $2 million, Human Resources Director Matt Doyle said in an e-mail.

A full 5% cut to the department’s budget outside of salaries would bring additional layoffs of six sworn officers and two non-sworn positions to a department already lean after last year’s unpopular cuts of sworn officer positions, according to the proposal Interim Chief Ron De Pompa presented in May.

Still, Councilman Ara Najarian — who as a reelection candidate was a staunch advocate against any significant cuts to public safety — said that without concessions, the council would have no choice but to explore rollbacks.

“What we will be doing officially is asking the acting Chief Ron De Pompa to go back through his budget and to come back to us with his proposals for cuts, which would achieve that 5%,” he said. “I think the idea is that we would leave it to the chief to go through and eliminate those items that are least essential.”

Still, while De Pompa is searching for alternatives to potential cuts to the Vice Unit and Community Police Partnerships programs, he said there aren’t many other options because the department must preserve its core service of emergency response.

“It becomes very difficult for us to just look at our agency, scratch our head and say, ‘Where can we find $1 million to cut out of our operation without cutting services,’” De Pompa said. “It’s near impossible.”

Starbird echoed De Pompa, calling the initially proposed cuts “the most appropriate.”

The council will likely have to look at further reductions to other departments, many of which have already been hit by 7.5% in spending cuts, said Councilman John Drayman.

“I would say it is likely that, given the public’s desire that we not eliminate COPPS, that we not eliminate the Vice Unit, it becomes pretty clear that if there is nothing else to choose from, we begin looking at services provided by other departments,” he said.

Council members have repeatedly said they hope to avoid mandatory furloughs of city employees, which were discussed at a May study session, but at this point, nothing is off the table, Najarian said.

Each day of a mandatory furlough would save about $168,000, according to city officials.

“The only thing that I think the employees association can support as far as furloughs go would be a voluntary one,” said Craig Hinckley, president of the Glendale City Employees Assn.

Hinckley has publicly spoken out against mandatory unpaid work furloughs as essentially indirect pay cuts to employees.

De Pompa said the association, now midway through its contract, may be willing to look at concessions next year.

“It’s not as simple as it may seem. There’s a lot of nuances related to their decision,” he said. “I believe that the association is in the middle of their contract. They have time to come back for their final year and work in a good-faith manner with the city.”

Drayman said that while he was confident future concessions would be reached, they likely wouldn’t come in time to contribute to the budget-balancing act in the next couple of weeks.

“I don’t think the intention here is to create havoc in our budget, or to hamstring other departments, or to cause a loss of necessary quality of life to our citizens,” he said. “I am convinced the board and the membership will work together to help out the city as we go along.”

Councilman Dave Weaver, who has been especially strong in his calls for police wage concessions, said he was very disappointed by the lack of concessions.

“If it holds true Tuesday, it’s very sad,” he said. “It really boxes us into a corner.”

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