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Budget Ax May Cut Away Pomona Police, Fire Depts.

January 12, 1986|PAT BRENNAN | Times Staff Writer

POMONA — Already under pressure to head off an expected $4-million budget shortfall with across-the-board cuts, the city is examining the possibility of turning to the county for police, fire and library services.

"You always have more pride in something that belongs to you," Councilman Jay Gaulding said of present city services. "But I think with the situation we now have we've got to squeeze dollars as much as we can."

Contracting with the county for one or more of these services could reduce the cost of city government enough to stem the growing deficit, council members say, warning that either sharp spending reductions or some type of citywide assessment will be needed to allow this city of about 104,000 to continue providing essential services. All departments in the city have already been asked to cut their fiscal 1986-87 budget requests by 3.7%.

Approved Three Studies

The council recently approved funding for three studies to be conducted by the county on the costs and benefits the city could expect if it switched to county contracts. County budget analysts said the reports should be ready for council consideration later this month.

Lynwood and Azusa, two much smaller cities and the most recent to make similar changes, report substantial savings and no loss of jobs in the transition. But some Pomona employees could lose their jobs in a switch to county control, county officials said, although they added that further study is needed to determine exactly how many. Under a conty-contract plan, some of the people affected would become county employees; others might be transferred to jobs in other city departments.

Departments under consideration for dissolution are the police, with 220 employees, 63 of whom are civilian or non-uniformed workers; teh Fire Department, with 130 employees, six of whom are civilian; communications, with 26 workers who handle fire and police dispatching for the city, and the Pomona Public Library, with 34 workers.

$36.5-Million Budget

Under the current $36.5-million budget, the city spends $12.6 million for police protection, $8.9 million for fire services, $1.4 million for communications and $1.5 million for the library.

Gaulding and other council members said they will not decide whether to support the move until the county reports are complete. But Mayor G. Stanton Selby said that despite the city's 88-year history of providing its own police and fire services, Pomona may have to make the move if it proves to be the least expensive alternative.

"I look at it in two directions," said Selby. "As a citizen of Pomona I don't like it. As mayor responsible to the entire city of Pomona, I see it as a possible solution to our money problems."

Councilman Mark Nymeyer said he would approve the move only under certain conditions.

Wants More for Less

"I'm not going to buy into the county for exactly what we have now," Nymeyer said. "We have to have an increase in services and save money."

Nymeyer also said he thought city employees should receive first consideration for county jobs created by the switch.

"I don't want the employees to think they are just little pawns we shuffle around to meet the budget," he said.

The reports are being prepared by the Sheriff's Department, the county's Consolidated Fire Protection District and the county Public Library. So far, the three studies have cost the city $8,500.

The county Board of Supervisors would also have to approve any contracting agreements. A spokesman for Supervisor Pete Schabarum, whose district includes the Pomona area, said that although a decision by an incorporated city to contract for so many services at one time would be unusual, it probably would not be unmanageable.

List of Considerations

But he said a long list of considerations would have to be discussed before the supervisors could vote on the matter.

"What might be a real cost savings and benefit to Pomona might not be beneficial to the county," said Michael Lewis, Schabarum's chief deputy.

The quality of the existing city systems, potential liability from lawsuits and the amount of worker's compensation that would have to be assumed by the county would be the main points of concern, Lewis said.

The proposal to contract service was raised in a Dec. 5 report from the 25-member Citizen's Advisory Committee appointed by the City Council. The report criticized present and past city councils for what it called inept management practices that helped bring about the city's current financial predicament.

"Since Proposition 13," the report said, "Pomona has not lived within its means. . . . Pomona has used its reserves and utilized revenue sharing monies for operating expenses.

"Pomona must recognize itself for what it is," the report continued. "We are not a rich city."

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