Axing of cop jobs likely |

Axing of cop jobs likely

William Ferchland, Tribune staff writer

South Lake Tahoe police officers may be overloaded with work, according to a labor consultant.

He came to this conclusion after reviewing the proposed budget cuts that are expected to be approved by the City Council on Tuesday. Included is a proposal to eliminate three officer positions which have been frozen for two years.

“Frozen or eliminated is the same salary savings,” said David Swim from Sacramento. “If you don’t fill the positions, you don’t spend the money. But to eliminate the positions means you don’t need the positions.”

Chief Don Muren suggested the position cuts to the council. It was included in Muren’s proposal of trimming $300,000 from the department to help the city balance its budget.

“To eliminate those positions means there is no longer that need for that level of service,” Swim said. “We understand there is a budgetary crisis, so leave the positions intact and don’t eliminate them.”

The police department uses 30 percent, or about $18 million, of the city’s $60 million budget. Muren was able to cut $300,000 from the department’s budget by scrapping the three officer positions, erasing a frozen position for a ninth dispatcher and reorganizing non-personnel costs, such as the cleaning contract and equipment. No one was let go, but retirements have ameliorated the budget problem.

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Muren said officers have been able to adjust to the workload after two years.

“They’re doing a good job,” he said.

Swim plans to meet with Muren and city representatives Friday to discuss the financial proposal.

“Is the service need still there? We’re saying the service need is still there,” Swim said. “We understand short-term and tightening the belt, but to eliminate them outright predisposes the service needs.”

In addition, funding for the department’s mounted patrol was suspended. The department has three officers who run the program. Horses are used for crowd management during New Year’s Eve and ceremonies such as South Tahoe High School’s graduation.

“I’m very supportive on what the departments have come forward with,” City Manager Dave Jinkens said.

Jinkens declined to discuss the issue further until he meets with Swim.

– E-mail William Ferchland at