Fresno police group says it will negotiate with city

FRESNO, Calif.

Thursday Fresno's largest labor group, the Police Officer's Association (FPOA), announced it will sit down with city leaders to discuss ways to reduce the deficit.

This means the city can now get to work.

City Manager Mark Scott says city workers salaries and benefits make up 81 percent of the budget and concessions will have to be made in order to prevent making cuts to core services.

"We do feel like we could be part of the solution, but we sure would like to be treated like we're part of the solution and not the enemy though," Jackie Parks of the Fresno Police Officers Association said.

In a surprise turn of events, the Fresno Police Officer's Association announced at a news conference Thursday afternoon that it's willing to enter talks with the city in an attempt to solve Fresno's growing financial crisis.

"We're willing to help and that's why instead of sitting back and waiting for the city to call us that's why my executive board is meeting with me, discussing amongst ourselves - are there options that we think we could present to our members?" Parks said.

Fresno faces a $2 million budget deficit this year that grows to $15 million next year.

City Manager Mark Scott says the city must try to reduce health and retirement costs and take steps to win concessions from labor groups.

He says the FPOA's decision to work with city leaders is a step in the right direction

"We have to ask them to help us. The community has taken care of our employees very nicely in the good years and now that there is just not enough cash to pay for the programs and compensation packages that we've had, we need them to step up and help us in the bad times," Scott said.

But the FPSA says the city's budget deficit is not their fault. Union President Jackie Parks would like city leaders to look elsewhere before making cuts to employee benefits.

"We continue to invest in downtown or projects that are new projects that we don't have money for and we need to start looking at how we sustain what we have versus creating something new," Parks said.

Still, he says he's willing to go to bat for the city and is waiting for a phone call from City Hall.

"We're glad they come to that conclusion and we're eager to sit down to get to work on the problem we all have," Parks said.

The whole reason this all came about Thursday was because the city adopted Mayor Ashley Swearengin's sustainability policy last week.

The FPOA had originally threatened a lawsuit if the city adopted the plan.

But after the city made changes to the language, the FPOA changed its mind.

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