Sac Police, Fire, Libraries Face Deep Cuts

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, March 11, 2008

*** The city council will hold a special budget workshop at 2 o’clock this afternoon (Tuesday 3/11) at the Oak Park Community Center (3425 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd).  The public will have an opportunity to comment.
For the last several months, everything’s been vague: Sacramento’s revenues are down, expenses are up, and cuts will have to be made.  Now, 21 city departments have figured out how they’d cut 10 percent of their budget – and how they’d cut 20 percent.
These are not guaranteed cuts – the city council won’t make any final decisions until June.  But city officials say they are road maps for how the departments would make the cuts if they’re told.
Young: “It would have a significant – significant – impact on the customer service that we’re allowed to provide to our citizens.”
That’s Sacramento Police Sgt. Matt Young.  A 20 percent cut to the Police Department would mean up to 295 full-time employees would lose their jobs.  Young says at least 100 of those would be uniformed officers.  So what would this mean to residents?
Young: “A substantial number of property crimes, for example, simply would not be investigated due to a lack of resources and staffing.”
And that’s not all, Young says.  Officers would respond more slowly to non-urgent calls.  And responses to some calls might be eliminated altogether.  However, Young says, if you call 911, a police officer will still show up, in his words, “pretty quickly.”
Now, what about the fire department?  Well, a 20 percent cut for them means over a hundred positions.  And Capt. Jim Doucette says the only way to do that would be to temporarily close fire stations on a rotating basis.
Doucette: “We have a total of 32 companies, and 20 percent means nine of them every day will be shut down.”
Doucette says that would increase response times by at least two minutes – and would lead to significantly more property damage, and perhaps even some deaths.
Other departments would have to make severe cutbacks, too.  For example, the city’s libraries would open up only five days a week instead of the current six; and park maintenance would plummet.
Again, everything’s hypothetical so far – but city officials have said all departments will have to make some cuts.  How much will come from each department?  That’s up to your elected officials.