In response to the city’s concerning budget shortfall, Arcadia’s police officers, firefighters, and other municipal employees have conceded to reduce their annual salaries and forgo certain health benefits, a move that city officials hope will significantly reduce the deficit.
Arcadia is not the first city to implement such a policy. In light of the state’s financial crisis, cities across California have resorted to cutting the salaries of municipal employees in order to close gaping budget gaps, often against the adamant protests of worker unions. In the case of Arcadia, city employees met the salary deferral proposal with amicability, peaceably consenting to assist the council’s efforts in eliminating the gap in the recently passed $48 million budget.
City Manager Don Penman approached the four city employee unions—the Arcadia Police Officers’ Association (APOA), the Arcadia Firefighters’ Association (AFA), the Arcadia City Employees Association (ACEA), and the Arcadia Public Works Employees Association (APWEA)—and explained the budgetary shortfall, requesting that union members chip in to help close the city budget gap. Each union agreed to accept deferrals in salary increase and worker compensation benefits. “The employees understood that it was better to be proactive and address the shortfall,” said Penman. “This is a very serious recession.”
In a membership conference, the APOA voted almost unanimously to assist the city in its state of financial need. APOA members, including all of Arcadia’s police officers, agents, and sergeants, will take salary cuts of approximately $1000 apiece and forgo medical care. Some officers will lose valuable revenue as a result of the new policies, but they are willing to help alleviate the city’s financial crisis in spite of the potential drawbacks.
Arcadia’s fire department is equally willing to make financial sacrifices for the sake of the city’s welfare. A statement from the AFA informed the public that the department will be taking a 1.25 percent pay reduction in hopes that the budget will be completely balanced by 2010. “We have a great working relationship with the city,” said Drew Pryor, second vice president of the union. “We’re happy to help them meet their financial obligations and goals.”
The total employee deferment benefits will total about $300,000; deferments from the police and fire departments will amount to more than $50,000 each.
The city council has worked diligently to reduce Arcadia’s budget deficit from $2.5 million to roughly $600,000, an accomplishment achieved through a combination of multiple budget cuts and revisions, frozen officer positions, and limitations on employee travel. With the new employee wage restrictions in place, the deficit for the following fiscal year will decrease to about $286,000.
Thanks to the efforts of Arcadia’s workers, the financial crisis has not yet mandated the layoff of any municipal employees.
By Nuria Mathog