Mayor Reed’s Final Budget Message: Public Safety First

In his final budget message before he terms out at the end of this year , San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed says it’s time to invest in public safety again.

“Our top priority should be improving public safety and the quality of life for our residents,” he says in the document released Thursday, which echoes his message from last year. “Unfortunately … over the past 10 years the police and fire departments’ budgets have increased, but number of police officers and firefighters has decreased.”

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Reed, who rallied for pension reform in San Jose and wants to pursue similar measures statewide, notes that the discrepancy owes to ballooning retirement costs for public employees. Reed’s opponents blame his retirement reforms for scaring away police officers, many of whom have defected to other departments to take advantage of better pension plans.

Some of the mayor’s proposals for the 2014-15 budget include spending more on police academies to make sure they train the maximum number of new recruits and bringing back the burglary unit lost to budget cuts. He also suggests addressing the uncertainty over disability retirements by making sure the city offers alternate work for officers and other employees injured in the line of duty.

The city should look into developing new staffing models to quicken fire department response times, he adds, like sending two-person squads to respond to low-priority medical calls and deploying just three firefighters per engine. And revenue from new construction taxes, he continues, should go to address the growing backlog of street and infrastructure repairs.

Reed credits the City Council with implementing “bold fiscal reforms,” like the $20 million in general fund savings from the parts of Measure B that were upheld, for the city’s improved budget situation.

“We’ve made the tough decisions to avert a fiscal disaster and we’ve made significant progress in eliminating our structural budget deficit,” he says. “However, a number of fiscal challenges remain.”

Councilmembers will have to decide whether to place a sales tax measure on the November ballot. They already voted this week to put a library parcel tax extension out to voters in June. Reed included a list of spending priorities, namely stepping up police and fire enforcement and fixing San Jose’s deteriorating roadways, in case the sales tax measure goes through.

The mayor’s March message is the first draft of the coming fiscal year’s budget document, a guide to kick off months of discussions about what to prioritize and pay for in the city’s next-year spending plan.

The council will talk about the mayor’s recommendations when it meets March 8. Residents will have several chances to weigh in at a series of public meetings leading up to the final budget adoption in June.

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

4 Comments

  1. Really Chuck, “Public Safety First” you and want to be mayors are the very reason we do not have a burglary Unit, crime is up and officers are leaving almost daily. While yo continue to blame all of this on pensions and while measure B is the real problem. Your attempt to bring back the Burglary Unit with retired police officers and civilians is as big a joke that will fall flat on it’s face. No wonder Sam, your vice mayor and PO all now want to make public safety the #1 priority in the mayors race, they keep following your lead which is not a good look for the future of San Jose.

  2. It is interesting to note the shift to protecting the public’s safety comes on the heels of reneging on contractual promises through unilateral breech of contract during “non-election periods” then the “about face” during election periods. To that end I say heartily, “Throw the bums and bum-ettes out!”

    The City of Santa Clara pays their Police Officers $39,000 (net pay) more than San Jose, also Santa Clara
    Clara Cops only have to pay 12% towards their retirement while SJPD has to pay 22%. Let us also not forget the changes in “disability language” that almost guarantees a San Jose Police Officer will lose their job if injured on their job.

    “It is time to invest in Public Safety…” I think it is time to invest in some fresh minds at city hall.

    Go it SJPD!

  3. Mayor Reed’s message to SJPD Officers in midnight briefing on 1-1-11 before their shift. Officers asked how he expected to protect the city after layoffs. Mayor Reed stated, “The citizens of San Jose will have to learn to live with more crime. “

  4. The man responsible for the public safety problem says “it’s time to invest in public safety again”. Little bit late on that one Chuck. Two firefighters responding on a “low priority” medical call was done in the 70’s and is not a good idea.There’s no way to know if a call is “low priority” or not until you are on scene.If you remove a firefighter from a company, you lose 25% of your work force. That means something will go undone at a fire and you have to call in more companies, leaving more areas of the city unprotected. If Chuck spent two minutes on a fire engine, he might have some idea of how things really work. The man is beyond stupid! I think I’ll run down to IBM with some of my ideas on how they should be running things.