YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :
Woodland City Manager, Mark Deven, was featured via telephone on the June 9 edition of (local National Public Radio affiliate) Capital Public Radio’s morning public-affairs show (Insight with Jeffrey Callison), to describe impacts of the economic recession and fiscal crisis upon the City’s public safety programs.
Deven outlined affects of recent budget cuts, including a loss of seven firefighter positions (at over $1 million, a 12% reduction in the fire department budget) — requiring the city’s four fire engine companies to operate with three firefighters per engine company.
This level of service, explained Deven in response to a question, drops Woodland below service [staffing] standards established by the National Fire Protection Association. This lower staffing level within our fire-protection program, he said, “is all that we’re able to afford.”
Four less police officers are another result of municipal budget woes (at $860,000, a 5% reduction in the police department budget).
___ Public Education Outreach Gone — Graffiti Abatement Stays ___
Woodland’s various fire education and crime prevention programs have been eliminated for the 2009-10 budget year.
“Public education outreach,” along these lines, has regrettably become infeasible, said Deven.
Fire-prevention education activities will soon be curtailed.
Neighborhood-Watch programs citywide are being excised (no police staffing participation), as well as the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program, which uses a regular (sworn) officer to target fourth-graders for relevant consciousness raising.
Weed abatement activities by the city will soon be attaching monetary fines for such efforts to be billed against violators, according to Deven.
The city’s graffiti abatement program, though — will remain solidly in place.
When asked why, Deven explained that: “graffiti devalues property and the appearance of a community,” and if neglected, “it can significantly multiply.” Also, connections between graffiti and (criminal) gang activity argue for constant, priority action, he believes.
“It’s a quality of life issue,” Deven declared, a problem that if allowed to get out of control can have a variously negative influence on communities.
___ Why Prioritize Police Over Fire Services? ___
Asked about reasons for the fire department being reduced more than police services, Deven related that the predominance of fire-department calls involve requests for — “emergency medical aid” — rather than fires.
A large-structure fire or similarly serious, emergency situation — “will stretch our resources” — said Deven, and Woodland would have to depend upon overtime-scenarios for its firefighters and contextually proportionate help from neighboring jurisdictions, such as Davis, to provide an elevated emergency response.
“We need multiple police officers to respond at any one time,” stated Deven, to incidents involving potential felony arrests — which is the reason for maintaining police staffing levels above those of the fire department. “We need to decide which (kind of) balance is the right way to go, he said.
Economic conditions “force us to review everything we do,” Deven described, deciding “what are our most important services.”
___ Projection of More Budget Cuts ___
Queried about the future fiscal outlook and potential for more city budget problems, Deven exclaimed: “absolutely;” in order to properly arrange the city’s new, 10-year fiscal-planning program, additional cuts are coming.
“Yolo County’s 12.3% unemployment rate,” is an ongoing and significant indication of economic circumstances affecting municipal revenue and programs, according to Deven.
For fiscal year 2010-11, Deven is currently projecting a reduction to the city budget of $2.25 million.