In a move that will save Palo Alto about $800,000 during bleak financial times, the city's police union has voted to defer the 6 percent pay raise it was slated to receive in 2010.
The Palo Alto Police Officers Association, which represents about 80 officers, voted by a 75 percent majority to defer the raises, a component in the union's 2007 contract with the city, Agent Wayne Benitez, police union president, announced at the outset of a City Council Finance Committee meeting Tuesday night.
The union also agreed to extend its three-year contract, which was due to expire in 2010, until 2011.
Benitez said the deferral will cost each officer about $10,000 in lost wages. The vote was tallied Saturday morning, he said.
The union's announcement came about two weeks after the city's fire union agreed to defer raises a year, which will save the city about $700,000.
It also came at the beginning of a meeting where the committee was scheduled to consider cutting $500,000 from the Police Department's budget.
"It is our hope that the money we saved through our voluntary salary reductions will not only assist the city to close its deficit but prevent cuts in vital city services," Benitez told the committee.
"As Palo Alto employees, we are not immune to, nor unaware of, the hardships felt by the many during these economic times, yet we will continue to assist the members of this community to the best of our abilities," he said.
The decision was lauded by the committee, which was completing its series of meetings on the 2010 budget Tuesday night.
Vice Mayor Jack Morton, who had previously criticized both unions for excessive overtime spending, thanked the city's rank-and-file officers for doing their part to help the city get out of a $10 million financial hole, which could grow to $12.5 million if the state holds back sales tax and other revenues.
"I never had a doubt, not for a moment, that you'll all step up to the plate and help our city solve this," Morton said.
Councilman Larry Klein also thanked the officers, calling them "great citizens in our community."
Chair Pat Burt called the union's decision "an outstanding comment on the commitment of our Police Department, and prospectively of other employee groups."
But even with both fire and police unions agreeing to defer raises, the city is still banking on concessions from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 521, which represents about 600 city workers.
City Manager James Keene said city officials are currently in negotiations with the union.
The projected $10 million budget gap assumes that neither the employees represented by the union nor city management will receive pay increases in fiscal year 2010, which begins July 1. Otherwise, the deficit would balloon to $12 million, even without the threatened additional state withholding of revenues from cities, counties and districts
"We've built into the budget assumptions that we'd be able to avoid or defer pay increases for the management/professional class," Keene said. "And, as we go to negotiate with SEIU this year, that we'd have no pay increases for FY 2010.
"That is subject to change."