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South Gate OKs Leaner Budget; No Pay Hikes for City Workers

July 16, 1987|LEE HARRIS | Times Staff Writer

SOUTH GATE — The City Council has agreed unanimously to spend about $600,000 less in the next year than in the previous 12 months, with the biggest chunk coming from the Police Deparment.

About 70 police officers and their supporters picketed City Hall Monday before the council passed the $14.7-million budget that included no salary increases for any of 324 city employees.

The council did, however, leave about $2.5 million in a reserve fund. In the past the reserve fund has been used to pay for salary increases that are negotiated during the fiscal year.

Rank and file police officers and six other city employee bargaining units--including clerical, maintenance and police management--are currently negotiating with the city for salary and benefit raises. The police officers have been working without a contract since June 30.

Budget Reduction

The council agreed to reduce the police department's budget by about $288,000 in fiscal 1987-88, which began July 1. The 90-member police department's new $7.5-million allocation is the city's single biggest budget item.

At least five police positions, including three officers, would be cut. No one will be laid off or fired, but positions will be left vacant as people leave them. Other police savings would be obtained by reducing the pool of money for overtime pay and not replacing some equipment and supplies.

The council also adopted a selective hiring-freeze policy, which allows it to review each employee vacancy before it can be filled. Until now, supervisors could hire replacement employees without council review.

Other large cuts included more than $80,000 from the Public Works Department and $61,000 from the Park and Recreation Department budget. Those departments heads are expected to delay purchasing or not to replace equipment or to find funds from other sources such as special funds received from state and federal grants.

The council also discussed--but took no final action on--various ways to raise money. Ideas included increasing charges for impounding vehicles from $25 to $30 and charging citizens when police have to respond more than once to complaints about parties.

Closing Sports Center

The council also discussed closing the city's sports center for one day a week, which would save an estimated $22,000. The sports center includes recreational facilities and a large Olympic-size swimming pool. The council had discussed closing the pool for half the year but has abandoned that plan.

Police officers and their supporters filled the council chamber to press their demands for wage increases.

"We are falling further and further behind (other cities in pay). We must take a stand. The public is behind us," police investigator Robert M. Todd, president of the South Gate Police Officers Assn., told the council.

Todd presented the council with petitions he estimated to have 6,000 signatures supporting a pay raise for policemen. Todd said the signatures were gathered within a week's time from around the city from residents and visitors.

He said in an interview that a recent association survey of six area police forces, including Downey, Compton, Bell-Cudahy and Maywood, showed that South Gate officers are the lowest paid. A city survey backs up that contention, said Mayor Henry C. Gonzalez.

'Looking for Money'

The starting salary for a police officer is about $25,000. Gonzales said the average pay on the city force is about $35,000.

"We want to raise their salaries," Gonzales said. "We are looking for the money. We don't have large revenue producers" like some of the surrounding cities with card clubs.

Todd told the council that the city had one of the finest, if not the best, department in the surrounding areas.

"The issue is not whether we have the finest or not. I think we do. But we must look at the total picture. Other employees have to be satisfied. The question is where do we get the money," Gonzalez said.

Because federal revenue sharing has been eliminated by Congress, South Gate has had to scramble to find ways to make up the $1.2 million a year lost in federal funds. Some of that money had been used in the past to offset police operations and other needs, Gonzales said.

The city and the police association have been at an impasse since June 30. A meeting on July 8 with a state mediator failed to resolve differences, Todd said.

The negotiations are not public and neither side has revealed what has been put on negotiating table. The police received a 2.3% salary increase last year, Todd said.

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