State

9 Modesto cops out of a job today as layoffs take effect

Nine Modesto police officers are losing their jobs today because the city and their union were not able to negotiate wage concessions that could have saved their positions.

The city and the 202-member Modesto Police Officers Association did not meet Tuesday, Mayor Jim Ridenour and MPOA President Tony Arguelles said.

But Modesto and the union that represents police sergeants and lieutenants sought to avoid layoffs in contract talks Tuesday afternoon, but neither side was ready to announce a deal.

The Modesto Police Management Association represents about 40 employees. Two of them will be demoted if contract talks fail, triggering two more layoffs among less senior, lower-ranking officers represented by the MPOA.

The city wanted the MPOA to defer raises for one year to save $820,000 and prevent layoffs. The union was unwilling to do that without a no- layoff guarantee, fearing it would lose long-awaited raises and see the city still lay off officers.

It wanted the city to look at other spending reductions and to delay a decision until it learns whether it will receive U.S. Justice Department grants from the federal stimulus package that would provide funding to retain officers who otherwise would face layoffs.

Modesto refused to grant the no-layoff pledge because council members said they are concerned that the city could lose more than $3 million if the state chooses to balance its budget by borrowing money from local governments.

Despite the layoffs, Modesto intends to keep 100 officers on patrol beats — the same number it has had in recent years — by reassigning officers from specialty assignments to patrol.

Three Modesto city unions have agreed to defer raises or to cut their pay by taking mandatory furlough time as part of the city's effort to close a $4.8 million budget shortfall by the start of the fiscal year that begins today.

Three other Police Department employees in support roles have received layoff notices. The three records clerks who would lose their jobs belong to the 78-member Modesto Police and Fire Non-Sworn Association.

MPNSA President Art Miller said the union has agreed to wage concessions by accepting 96 hours of unpaid furlough time over the next year.

The sticking point is an appeal from the MPNSA to have its health care covered through the California Public Employees' Retirement System instead of private plans offered by the city.

"We're still working on it," Miller said. The union has until July 9 to reach a deal that would keep the records clerks employed.

Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at aashton@modbee.com or 578-2366.

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