City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

April 29, 2013
Sacramento budget: more cops, but only with pension help

The Sacramento city manager has proposed hiring dozens of new police officers - but only if the city's existing cops agree to pay into their pensions.

In his 2013-14 budget released Monday, City Manager John Shirey proposed hiring 58 uniformed police officers with funding from a recent increase in the city sales tax. Those officers - hired over the next 18 months - would beef up street patrols and help the department investigate more violent felonies.

But Shirey said he would withdraw that recommendation if the Sacramento Police Officers Association, the union representing city police officers and sergeants, does not agree to have its members pick up the full employee contribution into their pensions by July 1.

Most city employees pay an employee share of pension contributions; the city picks up an employer share. The police union is the largest in the city that does not pay into its retirement plan.

Dustin Smith, the head of the police officers union, said the organization and city officials are in "active bargaining sessions" and that more talks are planned.

"We're still hoping we can bargain some type of deal that works out for both the community and the officers who serve it," he said.

The City Council will receive its first formal briefing on the budget at its May 7 meeting and is scheduled to adopt the budget June 11.

Funding from Measure U - the sales tax increase approved by city voters in November - will help fund 80 positions in the Fire Department, almost all of which will be filled by sworn firefighters.

Dozens more positions in the parks department will be filled. That increase will allow the city to open 11 swimming pools and five wading pools, extend community center hours and provide more maintenance at city parks.

The 2013-14 budget does include an $8.9 million deficit, which Shirey said would be addressed mostly through the elimination of vacant positions. The city has said Measure U sales tax revenue would be used only to restore services lost during the economic downturn, not to fill budget gaps.

While this year's budget is the first since 2008 that does not include layoffs in the city workforce, Shirey said modest increases in sales and property tax revenue combined with the city's future pension obligations mean the city is not in the clear.

The city's annual contribution to the California Public Employees' Retirement System will increase by nearly $17 million by 2019 to make up for investment losses to the pension fund, city budget officials said.

"The pension costs really are the Pac-Man that's eating our budget," Shirey said.

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at


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