Last year San Jose struggled to the last minute to wrangle concessions out of city workers and unions just so that it could balance its budget and overcome a $118 million shortfall. With next year’s budget due in four and a half months and a $110 million shortfall looming, city officials are already scratching their heads, wondering what to cut. ““We have some very, very difficult discussions and decisions ahead,” said City Manager Debra Figone at a Monday night study session about next year’s budget.
Cuts are inevitable to staff and services, but the question is where. In the worst case scenario, the city may be forced to lay off one out of every five municipal workers, a total of 1,193 people. Even if they all take a 10 percent pay cut, the city would only save 335 jobs, leaving 858 employees still vulnerable.
The city’s new Chief of Police Chris Moore is already worried about how the layoffs will affect his department. For the first time in San Jose’s history police may be laid off, despite the spike in violent crime that marked the beginning of the year. Moore worries that as many as 350 officers could be laid off.
Mayor Chuck Reed said that much of the problem is the result of steep retirement benefits, a vestige of better times for the city. These now eat up $61 million, over half of the anticipated shortfall. While negotiations with the city’s eleven unions are already underway, there is no indication that concessions have been reached. In other words, the city could face a stormy few months leading up to July 1.