City manager Debra Figone didn’t let police get the last word of the fiscal year regarding contentious labor negotiations and the first layoffs of officers in the city’s history. On Thursday, she sent a memo to the mayor and city council countering an op-ed piece written by Police Officers Association president George Beattie, which blamed city officials for the layoffs of almost 70 officers.
In her memo, Figone notes that the city has cut $680 million in spending over the last 10 years of deficits and lost 2,000 positions total. "While we are all sorry to see almost 70 officers leave City service today," she writes, "I’m confident that you join me in also feeling sorry for the many other talented City employees who have also been laid off either this year or in the recent past."
Figone also took issue with Beattie’s criticism over not accepting a federal COPS grant, which would have saved the jobs of 53 officers. Beattie failed to note that the city would have been on for $16 million over four years, according to the city manager.
"With regard to the COPS grant which was characterized as a ‘botched opportunity,’ what the op-ed failed to note is that acceptance of the full COPS grant would have burdened the General Fund with an additional $16 million over the next four years," Figone writes. "Given the current state of the City’s finances, we simply could not make that commitment."
With the city expecting a $78 million deficit for the 2012-13 fiscal year, Figone says that "(w)ithout additional concessions such as retirement reform, the discretionary part of the budget left to solve this shortfall will be only about $419 million, with more than $300 million of that devoted to public safety. We confront a future with limited choices. I expect that the reductions necessary to balance the budget will once again include public safety, unless something else on the cost side changes. In reality this means progress on real, bankable retirement and other fiscal reform.”