Gene Haagenson, 03/22/12
Mayor Ashley Swearengin told the city council Fresno’s financial future is bleak; but there is hope with her plan. “I believe we have a solid plan to navigate through the troubled waters that we still have.”
City Manager Mark Scott outlined the problems, a two million dollar budget deficit this year that grows to 15 million next year. He said the city must try to reduce health and retirement costs, and take steps to win concessions from labor groups. He and the Mayor want the council to adopt policies that would force the city put limits on the lengths of contracts before they are negotiated.
The real target of all this talk at City Hall is the Fresno Police Officers Association. Because the Police Department gets the biggest chunk of the city budget the Mayor wants the officers to give up more. “We need all of our employee groups to come to the table and the largest and higher dollar value to the general fund is the Fresno Police Officers Association.”
Rocky Lucia, the attorney for the Police union says members understand the need to compromise, but says adopting a policy that restricts what can be negotiated violates state law, and puts the officers at a disadvantage. “We’re ready to deal, we want to talk to the city but we’ve got to talk as equals, not as one dictator to a subservient.”
Council members are taking the Mayor’s plan under consideration. The Mayor is hoping they will adopt it before starting work on the city budget. But friction from the police union and other employee groups is expected.