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Employees will pay more, may still lose jobs Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Oct 09 2010 12:00 PM

The Chula Vista City Council adopted a resolution Tuesday night approving pension reform for 91 non-union city employees who will begin contributing eight percent of their salaries toward retirement in January.

The council also agreed to a second-tier pension proposal for all new hires.

Residents addressed the council during an estimated three hours of public comment in opposition to budget cuts and the passage of Proposition H. City Manager Jim Sandoval has met with other unions to encourage them to participate and avoid further public service cuts and layoffs.

Sandoval and city staff presented a financial update, including a five-year budget balancing plan to address the city's $12.5 million deficit. The financial forecast has major assumptions including collection of the telecommunications users tax and no funding for vacant positions. It also includes severe cuts to services such as the library, recreation and public safety.

The city has already eliminated 259 permanent full-time positions and reduced hourly staff by 50 percent. The city is currently saving $1.2 million through June 2012 due to cuts. "The cutbacks are extraordinary," Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox said.

Sandoval said remaining employees are doing double the work. "We're asking our employees to do more than ever," he said.

Prior to the meeting, president and CEO of the Chula Vista Civic Association Ed Herrera spoke against Proposition H outside City Hall. City Council and staff maintain if residents pass the proposal it will save an estimated $5.6 million in public services. But Herrera said voting against the measure is the lesser of two evils.

"We're against stupid taxes that hurt businesses, especially during a recession," he said.

He said if City Hall would have been proactive instead of reactive a year ago, it would not be facing these options.

The police department is also facing more layoffs in addition to the 33 layoffs and 14 demotions that occurred last week. Several members of the police officers union also gathered outside City Hall to protest, donning T-shirts that read "Is Chula Vista Safe?"

Chula Vista patrol officer Angela Bennett has worked for the CVPD for seven years, though she left for two years to work in Los Angeles County and moved back one year ago. She and her husband, who also works for the police department, were laid off one week ago.

"I'm scared to death," Bennett said. "It's all of our income." The Bennetts, who just purchased a home in Chula Vista, have a 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter.

"It's a gamut of emotions that makes us feel scared not for just us but our community as a whole," she said.

Bennett said she doesn't understand why so many people are being laid off in January if the fiscal year ends in June. "It seems strange that they're going to sacrifice police officer's jobs and our community's safety just to build up their revenue."

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