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Budget divides council: 'Worst-case' plan OK'd in 4-3 vote
[June 19, 2010]

Budget divides council: 'Worst-case' plan OK'd in 4-3 vote

Jun 19, 2010 (Times-Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Vallejo will have one less fire station and a few less police officers beginning July 1.

The deeply divided City Council approved the budgert for fiscal year 2010-2011 late Thursday on a 4-3 vote.

The "worst-case scenario" budget, which requires the public safety cuts, passed shortly after the council rejected a proposed sales tax ballot measure on a 5-2 vote.

The expected discontinuation of city-provided paramedic services was delayed for six months, through a deal between the fire department and the countywide medic service provider.

Councilman Hermie Sunga said he voted for the budget following the tax measure's failure in order to "start working on the financial solvency of the city." Sunga voted with Councilwomen Marti Brown, Stephanie Gomes and Joanne Schivley.

During the evening and recent meetings, city officials pointed to a large new budget outlay in the form of a projected 7 percent police union pay raise, retroactive to July 1. The raise is estimated to cost $1.4 million.

"Without the police raise, that could represent a significant portion of keeping a fire station open," Schivley said.

The budget also includes a payment of more than $9 million to the California Public Employees Retirement System, more than the agency is requesting. City finance officials explained that enlarged payment will help lower subsequent years' costs, and will save the equivalent of an additional officer's job each year.

Brown said some council members reached the conclusion earlier than others about the tough budget cuts.

"I think some of us are really resigned," Brown said Friday. "We finally feel that we can't keep moving the pieces around the chessboard -- we're out of pieces." Interim Fire Chief Doug Robertson said Friday that the council's support of the budget will mean some juggling of open fire stations. At its peak, the city had nine fire companies in eight locations.

The city's one ladder truck shared lodging with a fire engine company. The truck has recently been located on Ascot and Columbus parkways, and could be moved downtown. Also, the Glen Cove station, on Fulton Avenue, would lose its engine to the already-closed Fifth Street station in South Vallejo.

"The city council had a very difficult decision to make -- they made it," Robertson said. "We will do the very best that we can to protect our citizens, we will continue to do so." It was unclear whether the police department would have to reduce its 95-officer staff to 92 or 93 officers, as Police Chief Robert Nichelini continues to seek new revenue sources.

Contact staff writer Jessica A. York at (707) 553-6834 or

To see more of the Times-Herald or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2010, Times-Herald, Vallejo, Calif. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

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