2012 budget proposal focuses on public service and CalPERS cuts

<strong>Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster talks about the 2012 proposed budget at a press conference held at Long Beach City Hall on Aug. 2.</strong>

Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster talks about the 2012 proposed budget at a press conference held at Long Beach City Hall on Aug. 2.

Athena Mekis
Staff Writer

Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster and City Manager Pat West revealed the 2012 proposed budget, which includes reductions in every city department, Tuesday, Aug. 2nd at Long Beach City Hall. The budget reductions will reduce the 2012 fiscal year deficit of $18.5 million to $6.2 million by 2014.
Within the past eight years, 644 city positions have been eliminated. If the proposed budget passes, a total of 259 positions will be eliminated, including sworn police officers, fire fighters and city staff members.
All of the city’s public services will undergo funding cuts, with the police and fire departments receiving the heaviest cuts. These departments accounted for 68 percent of the general fund in 2011.
“The police budget proposal is on target, but the fire department’s proposal is still tentative,” Foster said.
Long Beach Fire Department Chief Alan Patalano said he would review the police and fire department workload, and eliminate patrol and civilian staff accordingly.
The police department will cut three percent of patrol staff immediately, and the fire department will eliminate one man from every fire engine and suspend the fifth fire truck, which the city pays for through a special tax.
Additional cuts will be made to the police and fire departments in fiscal years 2013 and 2014 to offset the already negotiated salary increases.
The California Public Employees Retirement Systems (CalPERS) is another major organization taking cutbacks in order to reduce the deficit.
According to Long Beach’s Budget Bureau, the deficit would increase to $60 million by 2014 without the CalPERS cuts. The reductions include freezing salary increases and discontinuing current benefits for new employees.
“It is not fair to make public employees the scapegoats, but the current benefits are generous, and the numbers are very clear– these pensions are not sustainable,” Foster said.
The next step for councilmembers is to reach out to the community and find out which services residents would prefer to keep, and which could be cut before a final budget is adopted on Sept. 30.
“We require public input on what programs are the most important to keep in the budget,” 8th District Chief of Staff Jonathan Kraus said.
Funding for municipal bands was almost cut last year, but residents fought to save the programs, Kraus said.
Seventh District Councilmember James Johnson said, “The best thing about this budget is that it’s a long-term approach, and we’ll have a better community in the long term because of that.”

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