The Calexico City Council voted to give direction to the city manager to look for alternatives and solicitation of proposals for provision of contract public safety and law enforcement services.
The Council met last week to discuss a big item relating to the future of the Calexico Police and Fire Department at their regular meeting on Tuesday, November 15.
City Manager Armando Villa said the city is in financial crisis and is enduring its third year of deficit spending. General Fund Balance and Reserves have been depleted leaving no reserves to deal with emergencies. During Fiscal Year 2013/2014 thru 2016/17 the General Fund was overspent by roughly $9,000,000. Areas of overspending are Public Safety which include the Fire and Police Departments. The City of Calexico is estimated to pay over 75% of its General Fund Budget for Police and Fire Services.
“The City’s General Fund can no longer sustain existing and anticipated safety and law enforcement costs. The remaining 25% has been deemed to be insufficient to cover other essential public services, needed maintenance and overall operations necessary for the citizens of Calexico,” Villa stated in his report to the council.
Villa added that the deficit has been reduced thanks to cuts and agreements with labor unions but still needs to cut the remainder of $1.2 million to have a balanced budget.
City Council candidate Bill Hodge stated that he does not agree with the item saying the Police Officers Association has a counter proposal for the city to analyze that meets savings and asked them to look at the proposal once again.
“Bringing the Sheriff Department will prove to be cost ineffective in the long run and inefficient that will divide our Calexico community. The first year might be cost effective but every year after that the city will be at the mercy of the sheriff department bidding and there will be rising costs,” Hodge said. “The sheriff department will not be able to traffic control or DUIs and that is one of my concerns.”
CPOA President Sean Acuna stated that the police department was asked to cut $560 thousand and did by cutting $573, thousand, therefore, saving the city an addition $13 thousand.
“We had pretty productive meetings with City Manager Villa and seem receptive but when it went to council our proposal was turned down. How do you not accept an offer like this? We revamped our pay scale and we came out with a dollar amount that exceeded what the city asked us,” Acuna said.
Officer Acuna said that brining in the sheriff will be dangerous since the cost of having the sheriff will go up every year and will jeopardize other departments since the money will have to be use to pay the county.
“The sheriff department is not equipped to do traffic control, accidents, DUIs, and auto theft. So instead of looking for the easy way out, the city should think about how to bring more revenue to the city and maintain services. If you outsource police and fire, eventually you will outsource other city services,” Acuna said.
City Manager Armando Villa told the council that the recommended action was for him to let the public safety union know that they are looking for alternatives for police and fire and look for a long term solution.
“The alternatives will be cheaper not only for the short term but for the long term. The negotiations we have with our public safety units are very short term but, regardless, we still have to deal with the fact that we are spending 75% of our General Fund in public safety. I don’t know if the community is okay with that because of all the other things we have to pay for, such as parks and street maintenance. I think we need to find alternatives that need to be balanced because we have other obligations other public safety. Putting only 25% in streets, parks, and recreational area will not make people happy,” Villa said.
Councilman Joong Kim said to be conflicted by this issue since they are in a budget crisis but they still need strong public safety departments.
“We need to balance our budget and give the appropriate services to our residents,” Kim said.
The Council voted 3-0 with Councilman Kim abstaining to allow the City Manager to look for alternatives for public safety.