CALEXICO – City Manager Armando Villa presented Calexico council members with alternatives and possible solutions to achieve and close the city’s $3.9 million deficit by outsourcing public safety and law enforcement services during a special meeting Wednesday evening.
“On November 2, we had a presentation that revealed several red flags which included three consecutive years of deficit spending which amounted to approximately $9 million in overspending,” explained Villa. “The presentation also revealed that we completely used up our federal reserve and the other red flag that we discovered was that we have very elevated costs of public safety.”
Villa reminded the Council that in June, the city adopted a budget which required reducing expenditures by $3.9 million by the end of the year. He said they were close to achieving the goal, however the city still had a $1.2 million shortfall.
“I have worked with most of the department heads and several labor unions and have been able to achieve savings, however we are still not done, we need additional savings to balance,” said Villa.
Villa also said over the last five years the city has spent between 50 to 75 percent of the city’s general budget ($17 million) in public safety leaving the city with 25 percent of the budget to provide the citizens of Calexico other essential services.
“Twenty-five percent of the general fund is not enough to support the other essential services that we need to provide the citizens of Calexico,” said Villa. “It is imperative and important to look at alternatives because we estimate that the cost of public services is going to increase because of contracts.”
According to Villa, if the Calexico Police Officers Association and the Calexico Firefighters Association would come to an agreement, the budget would be met, however that is not the case at this time.
“I was hired to do my job and that is exactly what I am trying to do,” said Villa. “
Calexico Police Officers Association (CPOA) President Sean Acuña said the police department was asked by Villa to cut $560,000 and said they (PD) had complied and exceeded the amount by $13,000 with a total savings of $573,000.
“We went above and beyond,” said Acuña. “We had some pretty productive conversation with Mr. Villa who seemed receptive, but yet once our conversation went to council something happened. I don’t know if the information was filtered, but ultimately they did not want to accept our offer which I don’t understand. We went above and beyond.”
Acuña went on to say bringing in the IC Sheriff’s Department would awaken a sleeping giant and was concerned for public safety.
“Bringing in the sheriff’s would definitely be cheaper, however the cost would increase year after year,” said Acuña. “You will be at the mercy of public safety. Outsourcing public safety will not bring the city to a better place.”
“The sheriff’s will assign three deputies to the city of Calexico to keep it cheap and if additional assistance is needed they will have to draw deputies from outside the city. Could you imagine the response time? Talk about delays!” said Acuña. “They are not equipped, because they simply don’t deal with car accidents, DUI’s, and auto thefts because they are time consuming. They don’t’ have the specialized training that we do.”
After a lengthy discussion, council members John Moreno, Armando Real, and Luis Castro agreed it was a tough decision to make, however considering they must look into the best interest of the community, they voted 3-1 in favor of seeking alternatives for public safety. Councilman Joong Kim voted against the measure.
“This is a very hard decision to make, however we are not making the decision to bring in the sheriffs or any other agency at this time, this is simply looking for alternatives,” said Moreno.
Both the Calexico Police Department and Fire Department personnel were present during the meeting.