By Brittany Hanson/Garden Grove Journal
“A ballot measure doesn’t matter to us [police services]. We took an oath of office, to serve and protect and that’s what we’re going to do regardless of any election,” said Lt. Jeff Passalaqua, chief of police services for Stanton.
The recent ballot item Measure J was proposed to help raise revenue in order to pay for public services, however it was voted down and leaders in Stanton have come to the conclusion that the only option to try to balance the budget is to start making cuts to public safety.
Police and fire services are provided on a contract basis by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Orange County Fire Authority.
Passalaqua said that although those in police services will be understanding and do their best, the city residents would be less understanding when it comes to response time and emergency situations.
“We get called out to things where people don’t want to see us to begin with. With less backup, it will make things harder for us and for them [city residents],” said Passalaqua.
With an unbalanced budget and the new fiscal year looming, city staff was directed to cut, according to David Shawver, mayor pro tem, $1.8 million from the city budget, through fire and police services.
“We will have cut our budget a total of $5.7 million over the past four years with this additional $1.8 million and taking away [from] police and fire. We are running the entire city of 40,000 citizens on $3.9 million which equates to $8.16 per month per resident,” said Shawver. Shawver and other city council members have been avoiding any cuts to public safety because it is a necessary function for the city.
The City of Stanton has been facing an increasing gap between city expenditures and revenue coming in to pay those services.
Public safety comprises over 70 percent of the annual budget for Stanton. So far the city has cut its staff down to 19 employees with no raises, pay freezes for the last five years, cut benefits, lay-offs and closures of non-mandated service, such as parks.
OCFA Battalion Chief Kris Concepcion said that the city manager has already met with representatives for OCFA to discuss finding a solution for the situation.
“I couldn’t really speculate as to what this might mean for the firefighters [at Station 46] as far as cuts are concerned,” said Concepcion. “It’s too early.”
According to Concepcion, there are a few tiers in the approval process that goes along with making contract adjustments. It is not just between OCFA and the individual city, that there are board members to address.
Stanton’s police services operate with 24 deputies, three to six police vehicles at any time (with one or two persons in a vehicle), one motorcycle and on an $8.6 million annual budget.
Concepcion said that the fire contract from 2010 to 2011 for the station or one fire engine, one fire truck and total of 24 firefighters per day (eight per shift) was $3.67 million.
Police services have already made cuts with staffing in the front desk area, now run by volunteers, and have cut one of the two motorcycle police in the city.
“I’m not happy about it,” said Passalaqua, “We’ve been asked to cut $1.4 million. We’re sympathetic to the city’s situation and are doing everything we can do to help. . . no matter what happens or what cuts, our guys are going to do their best.”