BELL — City officials will eliminate seven police officer positions from their 47-officer department because Cudahy canceled its agreement with Bell and contracted with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for police services.
In addition, five city employees will be laid off in a budget-tightening effort to make up for anticipated tax revenues the city expected from the troubled California Bell Club. Positions that are now vacant, which include 16 jobs in middle management, clerical and maintenance, will not be filled this fiscal year.
A preliminary decision was made to trim the Police Department to 40 after Cudahy decided last month to end its contract for police services, City Administrator John Bramble said.
The cuts had to be made because the Bell police will not receive an expected $850,000 from the Cudahy contract or an anticipated $320,000 in casino tax revenues, Bramble said.
Will Try Attrition
The police cuts will become effective June 30. The city will attempt to eliminate the seven police positions through attrition, including retirements, Bramble said.
If the police cutback cannot be accomplished through attrition, it will be done through seniority, eliminating officers with the least amount of experience, Bramble said.
Residents will actually have more police to serve them, city officials said.
"We will have much-improved police coverage. Our quality of service will be better," said Councilman George Cole.
When city police served both cities, there were .9 officers for every 1,000 residents. Under the new structure, there will be 1.4 officers per 1,000, according to officials.
The five-member City Council voted tentative approval last month to make the changes in both the Police Department and the city government.
The vote was 3 to 2 with Mayor Ray Johnson and Councilman Jay Price dissenting. Both Johnson and Price said they had no major disagreement with the cuts.
Johnson said he would have preferred that the police cuts take place immediately.
The council is expected to confirm the cuts at its regular meeting Oct. 16.
The other employee layoffs will take place Nov. 3. A building inspector, two clerk typists and two maintenance men will lose their jobs then.
"As we looked at the police budget, we decided to take an overall look at the total budget," Johnson said.
Casino Income Ruled Out
He said officials concluded that the $320,000 the city anticipated from the Bell Casino for this fiscal year would not be forthcoming. The card club owes the city $1.9 million in taxes, but the casino has been in bankruptcy since April. It also owes $53,000 for its quarterly business license fees.
"We came up with a prudent, sound budget. Our level of law enforcement will increase but (with the other employee cuts) it might take longer to repair our sidewalks, Johnson said.
Bell's budget is just over $13 million with $3.8 million going for police services for the community of 30,000.
Cudahy received police services from Bell police for 15 years. Cudahy officials said the sheriff offered more substantial, responsive service at a slightly higher cost.
Cudahy is paying the Sheriff's Department $1.6 million a year, which is $118,174 more than it paid Bell.
The sheriff will take over police duties in Cudahy Dec. 6.