Police officers likely won't lose their jobs this summer, but there will be days when there are fewer officers on the street.
Cops will take eight furlough days and defer a 5 percent pay raise for the next two years to save the eight officers and supervisors slated for cuts, City Manager Carlos Palacios announced late Thursday.
The agreement, which also means police officers hired after June 1 will be a part of a new two-tiered retirement system aimed at saving pension costs, was signed off on Wednesday. It amounts to about 9 percent in compensation reductions but is not effective until the City Council considers final adoption of the budget on June 14, according to Palacios.
The as part of a cost-saving measure to cope with a $1.9 million city budget shortfall next year. Four firefighters jobs are also on the chopping block.
Palacios said city officials continue to negotiate with the firefighters' union. They meet again Monday and "are hopeful we can reach an agreement," the city manager said.
The proposed cuts to public safety were not well-received in the community. City Council members spoke out against the staff reductions at , and residents showed support for the cops and firefighters.
"Watsonville cannot afford to lose any police officers now or anytime at all!!" Susan Valdiva commented on a Patch story about recent gunpoint robbery. "City leaders need to consider the safety of our citizens and to reduce our police force would be the most insane decision they have made to date. Rethink this one very carefully."
There's been a rash of armed holdups in Watsonville, as well as several gang-related shootings, in the past month.
"This just goes to show we cannot afford to have our law enforcement cut. As the population increases, the crime goes up unless we have adequate law enforcement to curtail it," Patricia, who only listed her first name, commented on a Patch crime story. "Cuts have already been made with a promise of more to come and already the criminals are out in force."
Palacios said the tentative agreement means no layoffs. It's yet to be determined if unfilled police positions will be frozen, he said.
The department currently has two vacancies; one officer resigned Friday.
Publicly, police officers have been mum since the layoff plan was announced in May.
Palacios released a prepared statement Thursday: “I am thankful to our police officers, sergeants and lieutenants for the progress we have made in this tentative agreement which saves police officer jobs and assists in addressing the city’s serious budget shortfall due to falling revenues over the last several years which have yet to rebound and increasing pension costs."
The most visible change will fewer officers on the street—cops will take eight 10-hour furlough days next year.
Watsonville Police Chief Manny Solano said furloughs are preferable to layoffs.
"Overall, this is a great solution," Solano said. "Now we can move forward, save jobs and trying to fight crime."