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Fewer layoffs for cops Allison K. Sampite | Sat, May 14 2011 12:00 PM

At Tuesday's Chula Vista City Council meeting, City Manager Jim Sandoval said that four police officers could still be laid off come July 1.

That's 10 less than was initially projected in January.

As of last month, the city nearly balanced its $18.5 million budget gap through layoffs, pension reform, early retirement incentives, cuts to public service and labor negotiations.

The Chula Vista Police Officer's Association made an agreement with the city in January, which included pension reform and required that 11 officers be laid off.

Since then, 10 officers have retired, changed careers or gone to other law enforcement agencies.

Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano helped avert layoffs when he made the decision to cut back on police training hours, which allowed for five more officer positions.

In the meantime, the others are left to hope for extra money in the city's budget.

"The most important thing is the number of officers that we have available," Sandoval said.

Police department staffing equates to 0.94 officers per capita, the lowest in San Diego County.

In addition, the department is the least funded when compared to other local governments and spends fewer dollars per resident than every city in the area.

Last month, the City Council voted to temporarily delay layoffs following May and June budget hearings.

The layoffs, which were scheduled for May 9, were held after an April 19 vote to give the council a chance to consider ways to keep the officers.

The delay was a request of council and Public Safety Subcommittee members Patricia Aguilar and Steve Castaneda.

Aguilar recently wrote an email to more than 100 members of the public asking their opinion about public safety, security and police staffing levels.

Aguilar said she volunteered for the role because she has personal experience with crime. "I grew up in the 1960s in "the projects," where street crime was an everyday event," she wrote in the letter. "My neighborhood was not safe - almost everyone I knew was a crime victim or a criminal or both."

The city manager's office will present a balance budget to the City Council in the next two weeks.

In other City Council news, Deputy Mayor Rudy Ramirez asked the council to support a referral to the charter review commission regarding district elections.

The discussion of refining district elections was before the council last year.

"I think its time to look at the size of the city and the amount of money it takes to run an election," he said. "I think it'd be beneficial to take money out of political campaigns and make it more localized."

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