Long Beach to lay off at least 26 officers

LONG BEACH, Calif. A budget crisis in Long Beach could mean layoffs for police officers as well as firefighters and other city workers. The /*Long Beach City Council*/ is struggling to cut costs.

City officials say the solution is to freeze pay increases across the board. So far, most unions seem to be agreeing to that, except for the police officers union. That means the number of officer layoffs could now go from 26 to 76.

The city has one week to decide how it will fix a nearly $20-million budget hole.

"We're asking for pension reform. We're asking for employees to pay more of their pension costs. We're asking for new employees to have slightly lower benefits and longer ages of retirement," said Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster. "And if we do all that, we'll be able to get us back on a track to being financially stable. If we don't, then we're going to be faced with the things you saw."

For the Long Beach Police Department that could mean cutting 76 positions because the police officers union is refusing to take a pay freeze.

LB Police Chief Jim McDonnell says negotiations are ongoing, but luckily most of those positions to be cut are already vacant.

"We're going to remain a full-service police department. We're going to continue to prioritize how we do business, and to deploy our resources as judiciously and strategically as we can to get the best bang for the buck," said McDonnell.

City officials say some fire stations would be left unstaffed for periods of time to fill the budget hole.

Long Beach's popular Martin Luther King Jr. parade and the 4th of July fireworks show would have to be canceled, and the Christmas Tree Lane parade would lose funding as well.

Mayor Foster hopes the police department will agree to the proposed pay concessions now or the public will have to pay for it in the future.

"If we don't make these changes this year, the next three years are going to be very difficult. What I'm trying to do is to get us by the end of 2014 on a path of financial stability," said Foster.

The city council has until September 15 to come up with its budget.

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