Merced dips into reserves to save public safety positions

MERCED, Calif.

The city is still losing nine sworn police officers and four firefighters under the budget deal reached Monday. Councilmembers saved 10 police officer jobs and one firefighting position and will use millions in reserve funds to pay for them.

For a third straight month, police officers, firefighters, and their families filled Merced's city council chambers, trying to save their jobs. Several Merced residents also made their voices heard. "The government can't be all things to everybody. In a democratic republic, it wasn't intended for a government to be all everybody. Your primary function as a government, your most important function as a government is public safety," said resident Bill Baker.

Back in April, the city issued 64 layoff notices. A dozen went to firefighters and nearly 30 went to sworn police officers. They later rescinded 17 of those public safety layoff notices and took things a step further Monday night, restoring 11 more positions. Still, dozens of city employees will lose their jobs, including Merced Police Officer William Avery. "I know exactly where I am on the seniority list so I've been playing the numbers game for six months. I knew when they saved 10; I was the first one to go. But saving 10 is better than saving none. So I'm okay with that," said Avery.

The City of Merced will use $3.4 million dollars in reserve funds to pay for the positions it saved Monday. But not all councilmembers thought it was the right thing to do. "We're hedging our bets that next year we're going to find this pot of gold somewhere. It's just not going to happen," said councilmember Josh Pedrozo.

Merced City Councilmembers decided to save those 10 positions in order to get closer to the minimum staffing levels recommended by the F-B-I based on population.

The fire chief said his reduced staffing levels could mean shutting down some companies or stations when full staffing isn't available. They layoffs go into effect on June 26.

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