By Jacob Wilson/Garden Grove Journal
“There’s no way to keep all of our employees because we have to meet the budget,” Mayor Margie Rice said.
The City Council votes Wednesday.
The council on Friday discussed the ramifications of laying off up to 70 workers with senior staff.
“All remaining staff will be stretched like never before,” said Eddie Manfro, assistant city manager.
The Westminster Police Department would save over $2.3 million by laying off 23 civilian employees.
No sworn police officers will be laid off. But some sworn positions remain unfilled. There are 17 fewer officers than five years ago.
The layoffs will put more burden on officers and lead to reduced response and processing capacities in several areas, said Ron Coopman, chief of police.
To ensure immediate response to emergency calls, there could be delays in response to low-priority service calls.
The records department would be closed to the public on Saturdays and lobby hours would go from 72 hours a week to 40. The department’s community outreach program which coordinates Neighborhood Watch programs and school visits will also be hampered.
Also, the city’s community development director will likely be laid off. Currently the community development director oversees the planning, housing, building and code enforcement divisions and reports to the assistant city manager.
In the new system, the heads of planning, housing and building will report directly to the assistant city manager. Three code enforcement officers would report to a WPD traffic sergeant.
Rice bristled at the idea of moving code enforcement to the police.
“I don’t think our police should have that responsibility,” she said.
But the police would only take on a supervisory role, said Mitch Waller, city manager.
“The notion was not to transfer code enforcement duties to police officers,” he said, “but to transfer management.”
But code enforcement will be harder to reach since officers will be in the field. Response times could double.
In the building and planning divisions delays in services are likely. Customers will also have to wait longer at the counter and for returned telephone calls. Both divisions will reduce staff availability from nine hours per day to five hours.
The deficit is due in part to low sales and property tax revenues, said Waller. “Sales tax is still far below levels of five years ago,” Waller said. “Property tax is slightly down from three years ago.”
But the biggest factor is the loss of redevelopment funds to the state. The city has over $21 million in reserves but the money will quickly dry up if the deficit isn’t closed.
“Until we deal with this issue we’re exhausting our reserves at a rate of $29,000 per day,” Waller said.