City to Cut Staff

In the past, the San Jose City Government has been able to balance its budget every year without actually laying off workers.  The city would often cut costs by not filling open staff positions.  Apparently, those days are over.  The City Manager recently announced that staff cuts will need to take place in the future to help offset the city’s budget deficit.

How and where should the City of San Jose cut staff and reduce expenses? Here are a few suggestions.

1) The City of San Jose should place a two year freeze on all raises and bonuses in an effort to minimize the number of layoffs.

2) Eliminate funding for the Cultural Affairs Dept.

3) Reduce staff in the Economic Development Dept. (The group responsible for the Grand Prix and other expensive misses)

4) Reduce the staff in the Housing Dept. (Shift affordable housing programs to the County…in the end, more people would be served!)

5) Allow the private sector to bid on city maintenance work (i.e. park maintenance and street repairs).

The math required to balance the San Jose City budget is rather easy. What’s difficult is finding the political will to disappoint the powerful interest groups and bureaucracy that run this place. Apart from the mayor, San Jose still suffers from a lack of leadership, an undedicated press, and an apathetic citizenry. Things will never improve until the people of San Jose break that troika.


  1. Very simple. A mandatory 10% budget reduction for all departmets except fire and
    police.  Let the department heads choose where to cut, they know what best to cut.

  2. While the city is in a budget crisis lets not forget that there is still a large amount of money set aside for a rainy day.  San Jose has still not shown an inability to pay for their services, I would be surprised if layoffs were to occur.

    but, i’ve been wrong before…

    As far as cuts at police and fire, no way.  Those are the core services needed to protect the people.  Already police and fire are doing more with less.  Even though the fire dept. has almost 800 people in it, they are still way below the national average as well as the bay are average.  (National average is 1.49 firefighters per 1000 people and bay area is 1.08, san jose currently sits at .84 firefighters per 1000 people)  Don’t know about the cops but if the Police chief is asking for 500 more cops then that must say something….

    Just something to think about….

  3. Why should Police and Fire be exempt? because other city staff don’t have to wear a bullet proof vest when they go to work and they don’t have to worry about running into burning buildings. If anything, police and fire deserve a raise! Does who don’t agree, well then you better start thinking of ways to protect yourself when someone breaks into your house or when your house is on fire. Good Luck smile

  4. 3 – Ooh, good response. I would have thought if every department shared the burden it would mean less cuts for everybody. I also would have thought if the City Council were more responsible they wouldn’t be approving housing in every nook and cranny in the city. Then, city services—like police and fire—would not have to be stretched quite so thin. I would also like to think that the constant argument about why police and fire can never share the burden has more to do with public safety than labor issues, but I could be wrong.

  5. #5, perhaps San Jose has somehow figured out how to be more efficient than “normal” cities. Are we losing buildings or lives because of poor response times? I understand that crime is up some, and graffiti seems to be showing up everywhere, but we citizens can, and should, accept some responsibility in helping fix that.

    During this recent road construction season I’ve seen police officers directing traffic, sometimes three or four at an intersection. Isn’t there a way we can civilianize that function so that the officers can do more value add police work?

    To quote the British show Yes, Prime Minister, this will be a test of political will against administrative won’t…(I think that I have the attribution correct).

  6. Police and Fire budgets should not be cut.
    However, bloated Police and Fire pensions are another matter. Those should be looked at very carefully, and with lots of political backbone.

  7. According to EDD, as reported recently in the Murky News (buried on the back page, I might add), Silicon Valley unemployment jumped from 4.9% last year to 6.9% this year.  At the same time, government ADDED 3,700 jobs!  There’s something terribly wrong with a growth in govt. jobs in down times. It would be hard to believe that SJ, as the largest city in the Bay Area, had not added jobs.  So, next year are they just cutting the jobs they added last year?

    Mayor, council, dept. heads, city mgr., city atty, etc.—the 10% pay cut should be truly across the board. If someone says “no” to the 10% pay cut, that person gets laid off. And, we need a two year moratorium on highly paid outside consultants.

    Unleash the City Auditor on every dept. looking for savings.

  8. Article in today’s Merc:

    San Jose library use rises with sinking economy as free services draw families, job seekers

    Unfortunately the link to the article doesn’t work, but’s that’s not unusual for the Merc site.

  9. We should cut back on road maintenance. More potholes will cause us to drive more slowly, saving gas. It would have less effect on the real quality of life than cuts to parks and libraries. Plus deterioration of the roads is something that happens gradually, giving us time to get used to it.

    If taking bids for road maintenance from the private sector would cut costs, I’d be in favor of it. But I’m skeptical that there would be huge savings to be found.

    Pay cuts, postponed raises, etc., for everyone making six figure salaries would set a good example too.

  10. Time to think like a corporation!

    Here is what we do, Pete: independent review panel looks at the businessresidential tax base of every district in the city. We then compare that to the tax and service expenditures of every district.

    Whichever district has the worst ‘return on revenue’ gets spun off into its own city, and has to deal with it’s own budget problems. San Jose will consider that district’s petition to rejoin, but only after their citizens batten down and make themselves ‘viable’.

    Just like selling off unprofitable businesses.


  11. “National average is 1.49 firefighters per 1000 people and bay area is 1.08, San Jose currently sits at .84 firefighters per 1000 people)”

    Where are your fire staffing numbers coming from?

    Career Firefighters Per 1,000 People
    Population Protected / Low / Median / High
    1,000,000 or more   / 0.31 / 1.35 / 1.91

    500,000 to 999,999 / 0.48 / 1.38 / 2.51

    250,000 to 499,999   0.63 1.32 2.34
    100,000 to 249,999   0.53 1.32 2.62
    50,000 to 99,999   0.00 1.39 3.08
    25,000 to 49,999 0.00 1.27 2.83

    Source: NFPA Survey of Fire Departments for U.S. Fire Experience, 2005.

    “The rates of a particular size of community may vary widely because departments face great variation in their specific circumstances and policies including length of work week, unusual structural conditions, types of service provided to the community, geographical dispersion of the community, and other factors.”

    San Jose – 0.85 (Very low taxes per person)
    San Diego – 0.85 ( weak jobs base / very low tax revenues with high tax rates and high cost of doing business )
    Fremont – 0.69
    Los Angles – 1.03
    Sacramento – 1.42
    Mt View has 1.42
    San Francisco – 2.52 (Very high jobs / tax rich city )

    firefighters per 1,000 residents

    Does San Jose needs more firefighters / EMS ( 250-325 ) and fire stations (12-15) – yes but where is tax money going to come from or what services do you want to cut further from already lowest city services in Silicon Valley?

    What do staffing averages really mean? A few overstaffed departments ( San Francisco ) can throw averages way off

    Is the Fire and Police actually understaffed or just poorly managed?  We understand they put many expensive people in staff and admin jobs that can be done by less qualified people paid 1/2 salaries? 

    Are state / national averages adjusted for a) gross over staffing that occurs in many older cities like San Francisco b) San Jose’s actual workload c) free police / fire services given to clubs ($1 million / year) and other groups d) many police / firefighters are used in admin jobs that could be done by less qualified paid staff admin e)computer systems could do much admin / data functions done by high paid officers if city would invest in IT systems

    Over 80% of Fire Department calls are medical not fire, but we heavily staff firefighters. Do we really need 4 – $150,000 firefighters ( $600,000 ) in heavy fire truck responding to medical call when 2 – $65,000 EMT / non firefighters ( $130,000 ) in less expensive Star car could do the work and we could have 2-4 tomes call coverage for less taxes as many other cities do What is number of firefighters needed and maybe we need to add less expensive EMT to cover medical calls

    Mnny Police admin jobs do not require sworn police officers but San Jose uses high number of expensive officers doing admin, IT and other jobs rather than lower paid people

    What do most of you believe? Is City Hall is doing a good job of managing city or are they poorly managing and hiding facts from public?

    More Facts, less opinions will get us better answers and better services for less taxes

  12. 12 Kathleen:
    No, I don’t have those figures.  I’m quite sure that it is a lot, and too much!  In terms of consulting, I’ve often wondered why the city doesn’t use San Jose State as a resource (both faculty or students).  Some of the questions could serve as class projects, particulary for the MBA’s etc.

  13. #13,

    Thanks for the data.  I don’t see San Diego burning to the ground nor, closer to home, do I see Fremont ravaged with misfortune.

  14. 1 – Why should police and fire be exempt? That’s been part of the problem—police and fire never have to cut at the expense of the rest of the city. Shouldn’t they have to run more efficiently as well?

  15. Does anyone really believe government will ever shrink at any level?  See below.

    Read this slowly. Let it sink in.

    Absolutely the Funniest Joke Ever. . . ON US!

    Does anybody out there have any memory of the reason given for the establishment of theDEPARTMENT OF ENERGYduring the Carter Administration?

    Anybody?  Anything?  No?  Didn’t think so!

    Bottom line, we’ve spent several hundred billion dollars in support of an agency the reason for which not one person who reads this can remember.  Ready?  It was very simple, and at the time everybody thought it very appropriate.

    The Department of Energy was instituted August 4, 1977, TO LESSEN OURDEPENDENCE ON FOREIGN OIL.  HEY, PRETTY EFFICIENT, HUH?


    Ah yes, good ole bureaucracy. And now we are going to turn the Banking system over to them? God Help us.

    And don’t forget – the Feds took over the Mustang Ranch in Nevada when it went Chapter 11. The Feds gave up and closed it down.
    They couldn’t even run a whorehouse and a bar. What now?

  16. Because almost every city employee is covered by a union contract they get salary increases based exclusively on being in a position. This results in paying managerial level salaries without requiring additional responsibilities or even managing other people. Start offering early retirement/buyouts and filling these positions with qualified lower paid employees.

  17. Hey Waite,

    Maybe you should ask your good buddy, Pete (“I will take him at his word”) Constant, to tell you the difference between the cops working road construction and those driving around in police cars. Oh Waite, Constant has forgotten he was once a cop(well, at least he wore the uniform and pretended to be one)

    FYI The City of San Jose has been getting away on the cheap with public safety for years.  Educate yourself and compare San Jose’s annual public safety expenditures to that of the other 9 largest cities in the country.  I think there is where you will find your answer.

  18. No one is going to lose their jobs that are city employees.  Just cut City Council and the Mayor positions.  I remember when City Council was a “NO PAY” position that paid the council members $200 a year for gas and food to attend meetings.  I think we can balance the budget off the backs of the city big wigs!  Works for this old fart…

  19. #19
        San Jose used to be the safest city compared to other large cities in the U.S.,we have slipped to the 4th safest city on the new report when compared to other large cities.
        We need to start comparing ourselves to the other 15 cities in Santa Clara on crime levels.We are 13 of 15 on crime compared to other Santa Clara County Cities,not very good.This doesn`t help the Silicon Valley Chamber bring us new jobs.Why would a new company want to locate here when there are 12 other safer cities in our county.
        Our police department,all things considered,inspite of being short staffed year after year does the best they can.
        The leaders of our City government needs to start giving our “core city services”a priority, Police and Fire and Emergency medical services should come before any other City expense, get these people up to the staffing levels they need to be at.
          Enough with golf coarses,palm tree, Hayes Mansion bail outs and other non necessary expenses.Enough is enough.

  20. I like the idea of the city auditor without a leash.  How about the radical notion of allowing staff to make recommendations to save money?  Re-start an employee suggestion program (without rewards other than accolades for your file, or a better parking place)

    Doing some cost-benefit analysis on consultants is also a good idea. 

    How about tying department efficiency to management retention and salaries?

  21. OK!

    If we really want to balance the budget, we all must get real!

    1. The unions are killing us – Just say NO!

    2. True leaders will lead by example – Cut your pay and the entire staff by 10% and freeze all city pay across the board until the budget is balanced – Oh I’m sorry, we would have to say “No” to the unions!

    3. Review all programs in the city and cut the one’s that are not returning the best investment for the City as a whole.

    4. Review and redo the entire justice system. If we make it miserable for the criminals, then they would not want to come back – Wow what a concept! Take the money we would save and educate our children – wow what another great idea.

  22. all,
    we accepted the jobs we applied for. buck up and stop the whining of who is going to protect us from a robber, who is going to run into a burning building. i pursued the running into the burning building job, but had the wrong area of study focus for the time. i was doing it for the love of the job not the salary and the fricking great days off. and people love to see you when in need. if you are in those fields of work for the money and not love of the job you made a poor choice.

  23. Well first off,

    1. Don’t contract labor out.  “SUPPORT UNIONS”
    2. Cut pay an benefits of Fire & Police, Base pay $107,000 a year!
    rst off,3. Return City Council positions to $200 a year like in the 1970’s.

    4. Keep current City staff with more than a year on.
    5. Do away with all the closed,frozen or useless positions like part time or Intern.

    6. Get stiff Mayor “GREED” out of office. 

    7. Cut “ALL” management positions through out the city, holding to only one Management position per Dept.

    Remember it’s not the “little guy” who works for the City that is breaking the bank…

    It’s the City ADMINISTRATION, who are killing the budget.  Did we really need a new City Hall @ $525 Million, or Expanding the Convention Center @ $300+ Million during this lack of economy? 

    An Old Fram commercial comes to mind… You can pay me now? or you can pay me later!  All I know is that Our City needs to get back on track and lose the high dollar contracts and pay me later.