Urgent pleas from Modesto police officers Tuesday couldn't persuade the City Council to halt budget cuts that would lay off nine cops in the next week.
Both sides reiterated their bargaining points in a short but tense council meeting that drew more than 150 people.
Council members maintained that they wouldn't lay off officers if the Modesto Police Officers Association agrees to defer raises for one year, saving the city $820,000.
"All we're asking them to do is push off — not take away — push off their raises for one year, and there would be no layoffs," Mayor Jim Ridenour said. The council vote was 7-0.
MPOA leaders held their ground, saying they would cut their pay by nearly 5 percent through furloughs but wouldn't give wage concessions unless the city grants a no-layoff guarantee. It's also passing on improved health care contributions that were offered to other unions.
"People think the MPOA is fighting for raises," said officer Eric Pena, who received a layoff notice. "The MPOA is fighting for our jobs."
The city has one week to reach an agreement with the 202-member MPOA that would avert the nine layoffs before the city's 2009-10 budget starts July 1.
The Police Department will pull officers from specialty units to maintain patrol staffing at 100 officers.
The council's vote was part of a package of cuts to close a $4.8 million deficit in the $107 million budget. It includes wage concessions from three other city unions and eliminating maintenance for small "parkettes" on private land.
Many people at the meeting advocated for more parks funding, saying the city shouldn't allow its green spaces to wither. Modesto officials want to develop partnerships with residents and private groups to provide some of the maintenance the city says it can't afford.
"Let's not make the city look like foreclosureville with everything brown and dirty," said real estate broker Louis Levin.
Residents were passionate about parks, but their appeals were just a preview of the showdown over police layoffs.
MPOA members and their families arrived early, carrying signs as they marched through downtown encouraging people to support the police. They brought their families and sought to put a face on the layoffs.
Officer Caelli Hall introduced the nine officers who received layoff notices last week, describing their families and careers before they joined the Modesto Police Department. She's one of the officers who will lose her job if the union and the city can't find a compromise.
MPOA President Tony Arguelles implored the council to consider some of the budget cuts that his union has proposed, such as trimming uniform allowances or changing the way the city pays for annual police physicals.
The union also wants the city to consider using money from its vehicle replacement fund or its employee benefit fund to allay reductions in the police budget.
"We can find the money," former Councilman Bruce Frohman said, urging the council to follow through on the raises in the police contract. "We want to keep all of our police officers on duty, period."
Council members are unwilling to spend reserves or take money from other accounts to put into the police operating budget because they fear the state will take more than $3 million from Modesto to balance its own budget. That concern is one of the main reasons the city won't give the union a no-layoff pledge.
Councilman Will O'Bryant, a retired Alameda County sheriff's detective, said "common sense" should carry the argument over the labor dispute.
"When I look at this problem, I think what are we asking them to give up? What is this ironclad (issue) that is making the Modesto Police Department lock up and not want to give anything?
"And I'm thinking we're not taking anything from them. We're trying to postpone a raise. We're trying to postpone a raise, but we're trying to save layoffs."
Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2366.