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By Lloyd Alaban

San Jose police officers will get 7.7% raises in July while over 4,000 city workers—depending on negotiations—will only see increases of about 2.5% over the next two years.

Union members from the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 21 and the Municipal Employees’ Federation say the budget for regular workers isn’t given as much consideration as the city’s police budget. They’re looking to state their case at Monday’s budget meeting.

“We recognize the police have issues with vacancies, just like many of our city departments have,” said Matt Mason, lead union representative for IFPTE 21 which represents public sector workers. According to Mason, workers are still in negotiations. “We’ve just been asking the city to use its budget process to invest in all of their staff.”

Community leaders promised to flood the meeting’s public comment portion to demand the city take another look at its budget priorities, including filling hundreds of vacancies before increasing the police budget—criticized in recent years for its ballooning funding, officer raises and overtime costs.

If approved as is, the San Jose Police Department will see a 1.6% increase in its budget from 2020-21, from $455 million to $462 million.

Mason said the city needs to look at its budget priorities and give more precedence to workers it claims are essential.

“During the pandemic, we saw how important essential staff were to San Jose,” Mason said. “At this point, we haven’t seen that through the negotiation team through the city.”

Union workers are asking the council to pass a budget with more services for the community and to invest more in other departments so workers will have competitive wages, which will allow the city to recruit and retain more workers.

According to Mason, IFPTE 21 is working in collaboration with other unions, charities and local activist groups such as SOMOS Mayfair, Sacred Heart and PACT to turn out more than 300 speakers to Monday’s budget hearing. Mason said they want to highlight the discrepancies in budget increases for SJPD versus other city departments.

That’s not the only contentious discussion Monday.

In East San Jose, a part of the city hit particularly hard by the pandemic, some officials are busy proposing economic recovery funds in order to boost the neighborhood’s economy.

Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco, who represents East San Jose, presented a multi-million dollar East San Jose Rescue Plan Friday for direct economic aid to neighborhood businesses using federal funds. Carrasco also proposed funding for youth and education programs in her district.

Meanwhile, Planning Commissioner Rolando Bonilla has openly criticized the rescue plan, instead asking for $30 million in direct investment in East San Jose including $10 million in financial aid to businesses and $5 million in youth programs and services.

“What this budget proposal fails to recognize is that we aren’t simply trying to correct the neglect of the last year,” Bonilla said in a statement. “Equally, this budget should be seen as an opportunity to finally make the necessary investments into East San Jose that will bring it up to par with other parts of the city that have always received the benefit of investment.”

San Jose’s operating budget focuses on the costs of the city’s day-to-day services. In the 2020-21 fiscal year, the budget was approximately $4.8 billion. The proposed budget for 2021-22 is 5.1% less, coming in at approximately $4.5 billion.

Mayor Sam Liccardo issued his budget message last week, which focused on job creation, housing and pandemic recovery.

“Through its actions several weeks ago, the City Council has already forged ahead with several bold initiatives to confront the urgency of the crisis faced by thousands of our families,” said Liccardo in his budget address.

The city’s fire department will see a 9.4% increase, from $243 million to $266.7 million. The city allocated $86 million to Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services, up 4.6% from its original allocation of $82 million. The Department of Transportation’s $37 million budget went up just $21,000—an increase of 0.1%.

The city’s Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Department saw a reduction in its budget from $62 million to about $16 million between the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years, though city officials said that’s because certain development fees moved out of the general fund. In the upcoming fiscal year, the department’s budget will decrease further to $14.9 million.

The library and public works departments each received $36 million in 2020-21, and both departments will get increases of 1.9% and 4.8%, respectively.

Unique for this year is $200 million-plus in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan, President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package, that will be spent directly on pandemic response and recovery.

Most of the money will be spent to address next year’s deficit, according to Liccardo’s budget message. He suggests holding off on deciding on how to spend the remaining $50.1 million until the fall.

“We truly believe this is a community-labor alliance,” Mason said. “This is not just workers saying they deserve a big raise. That’s not what we’re asking for.”

The 2021-22 fiscal year is set to begin on July 1 and end on June 30, 2022.

You can read the city’s entire proposed budget here and can watch Monday’s budget meeting here.

Contact Lloyd Alaban at lloyd@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

The post Union workers demand more equitable pay in San Jose’s budget appeared first on San José Spotlight.

This article was originally published by The San José Spotlight.

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