State - INACTIVE

Oakdale asks for cuts, but rejects plan to ditch police chief

OAKDALE -- The need to trim the city budget by nearly $1.8 million is not an issue in Oakdale.

But how to make those cuts continues to be the point of contention, especially between the city and a police force willing to sacrifice its chief in the name of fiscal sense.

Mayor Farrell Jackson hopes to bring the budget to a vote at Monday's City Council meeting but realizes a lot of work must be done before that can happen.

"The council has asked all five employee groups to come up with wage concessions in the form of wage reductions or days off," Jackson said. "Out of the employee groups, three have done so and two are still working on it."

The city initially asked department heads to cut budgets by 15 percent and requested a 5 percent wage reduction be part of all plans.

When those reductions were announced in March, it was determined that a 15 percent cut would result in trimming of five or six positions from the 27-member police force.

The police union, one of the two groups yet to have a reduction plan approved, has submitted a plan, but it has not been presented to the City Council because it does not include the wage cut.

Joseph Parreira, president of the Oakdale Police Officers' Association, said the plan would save the city more money than the 15 percent departmental target.

"They asked for about $140,000 in concessions, and after meeting with the membership we came up with a plan that would have saved $650,000," Parreira said. "We presented the plan on Monday before the council meeting. They didn't like the offer, and then they said we hadn't offered up anything."

Plan eliminates police chief

More than one-third of the $650,000 in cuts, according to Parreira, would have come from the elimination of the police chief position.

Chief Marty West was given a no-confidence vote in March, primarily because the union believed he had not adequately defended the force against pending layoffs.

"We offered well above what any other department offered," Parreira said. "Our plan asks to retain all officer positions, and the council is not open to that idea."

The union also proposed taking the responsibility for crossing guards away from the police; modifiying the insurance plan, which Parreira said could save the city $100,000; and replacing paid overtime with accrued comp time.

'Unwilling to listen'

"The city says it wants to cut money, and we're showing how to do that without cutting people, and they're unwilling right now to listen to that," Parreira said.

"We want to keep as many cops as possible employed, and that's more of a public safety issue than one of just keeping people employed."

It's the city's position that the 5 percent wage cut could save one or two police positions.

"We're looking at every little nook and cranny in the budget to see if we can pull money without affecting any other services, to see if we can save police officers," Jackson said. "We probably won't come up with enough money to save five."

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at bvanderbeek@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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