Rubber Stamp for SJ Mayor's Budget Plan

The San Jose City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved Mayor Chuck Reed's 2009-2010 budget message proposing to close an $84.2 million  shortfall and to preserve services deemed most important in public budget  workshops and community meetings.

The action preserves the restoration of eight hours a week at city libraries, two fire stations recommended for closure, the city park ranger  program and layoffs from the police or fire departments.

Prior to the budget hearing, the San Jose Fire Fighters IAFF Local 230, held a news conference outside of City Hall to discuss what they claim  is the city's failure to respond to the union's wage concession proposals.

Union president Randy Sekany said negotiations between the union and the city are at a standstill citing "stiffness" and "lack of flexibility"  on the part of negotiators, who Sekany said have ignored proposals by unions  attempting to compromise.

"You begin to doubt the legitimacy of their desire to settle a contract," Sekany said. "We need the mayor to step up and say this is what we  want done."

City spokeswoman Michelle McGurk said that firefighters have written a letter offering to freeze wages but that there is still no  agreement to forego step increases, pay raises given to employees as they  escalate the steps in a given field. Sekany said this has been one issue of contention between the city and the union.

Among concerns raised by the public at Tuesday's hearing were a lack of communication between city leaders and employees and the imposition  of unfair concessions on employees.

While acknowledging their concerns, Councilman Ash Kalra stated, "The most important thing right now is fiscal responsibility."

"We have obligations to the businesses and residents of this city and this is the only way we can meet them," Councilman Pete Constant said.

Reed had introduced the budget amendments on June 5, stating that of all the city departments, he had leaned less hard on public safety.

A public meeting was held Monday evening for residents to give their input on the proposals.

With the approval of the budget message, City Manager Debra Figone and her team will begin preparing a final 2009-2010 budget for council  approval later this month.

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