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Budget not welcome by all Robert Moreno | Sat, Jun 08 2013 12:00 PM

The operating budget submitted by the Chula Vista city manager is not sitting well with many city employees and their unions.

City Manager Jim Sandoval proposed a $127 million general fund budget for fiscal year 2013 - 2014 that lists funding for additional police staffing, the implementation of an advanced life-support program and several redevelopment projects, but a raise or additional staffing for city employees is nowhere in sight.

“I think the purposed budget and all of essentially his (Sandoval’s) rhetoric at this point, has not included the line staff employees, whatsoever,” Michelle Castagnola, an environmental resource specialist for Chula Vista said.
Castagnola is a member of the Chula Vista Employee Association, which is an affiliate of SEIU Local 221.

“He’s mentioned the city being fiscally responsible, he’s mentioned the value of police and fire, but he and his executive management team have not once mentioned us as the group of employees that run this city on a day-to-day basis, that fire, police and the executives couldn’t work without all of our support,” she said.

Sandoval said in the last five years, to get the financial state of Chula Vista back on its feet, he had to make the tough decisions to eliminate more than 300 permanent positions, combine several departments, create a second- and third-tier retirement benefits package for new hires and have employees pay 100 percent of their share of pension costs.

“The only way we could fix  (the deficit) was cutting employees,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval said the budget is still not balanced, and $2.3 million had to be taken out of the contingency fund to balance the budget.

Sandoval said with the proposed budget he is wanting to get away with making promises to city employees that the city can’t keep.

“Personally, I would like to get away from making long term financial commitments,” he said. “And what the city did is (make promises), we said for like seven years people would get raises.”

Under his budget proposal, Sandoval created the Quality Workforce program. The proposed program is designed to provide increased financial stability to the city and its employees, Sandoval said.

“We’re saying we are going to run our city with a leaner staff, less people, we are going to make them even more accountable, so we are tying all the city’s goals to each employee,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval said if city employees do what is asked under the program, they would get compensated 66 percent of market value.

Larry Alcoff with the Service Employees International Union,  the lead negotiator for the Chula Vista Employee Association and the chief negotiator for the middle managers and professional employees said the Quality Workforce program is flawed.

“The first flaw is that it is ahistorical,” he said. “It is operating as if the last three or four years didn’t exist where people saw their take-home pay go down dramatically, people didn’t receive raises and it doesn’t project any increase in pay at all even though the economy is improving.

Castagnola, a 14-year employee with the city, said not getting a raise in five years has caused a financial strain in her life. She said she racked up credit card debt and had to refinance her home.

Alcoff said if Chula Vista employees do not get a wage increase then expect an impasse.

“If we don’t reach a fair agreement that includes wage increases for all city workers, then we are prepared to declare an impasse in the bargaining and proceed with the impasse procedures set up by state law,” Alcoff said.

If approved the budget will go from July 1 through June 30, 2014. Labor deals with the CVEA and middle managers expire June 30.

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