2012-07-05 / Front Page
Layoffs required to bridge $2-million deficit
The coordinator in charge of the city’s celebrated Volunteers in Policing program is among the casualties of a $2-million budget shortfall.
Barbara D’anjou, VIP coordinator since 2000, helped make the program of mostly 55-and-older volunteers the envy of other law enforcement agencies around the state, with about 85 volunteers putting in thousands of hours each year so that law enforcement can focus its resources on more serious crimes.
D’anjou, who was making $111,260 a year, plus $48,737 in benefits, was among two layoffs approved by the City Council June 26 as it sought to balance its books one year into a two-year budget cycle. The other: a customer service employee in the finance department.
“This was strictly a financial move,” Thousand Oaks Police Chief Randy Pentis told the Acorn this week. “We were asked to make reductions. It had to be a position. . . . It was a difficult decision but the best one for the circumstances.”
At last week’s meeting, Pentis said it was not an easy call to end funding for the coordinator but said that the change will not affect VIP or other police services as the position will be contracted out.
“(VIP) is a critical part of making us safe,” Pentis told the council. “We won’t let that program slide.”
Pentis said that the VIP coordinator job will be combined with an administrative position in the crime prevention department to save the city more than $140,000. A county employee in the latter job will be transferred, he said.
“We’ve done it before with sworn officers,” Pentis said. “We don’t want citizens to miss a beat in the services we provide.”
Pentis, who attends VIP meetings, said sergeants from several departments will be involved in the transition. D’anjou’s replacement will start by late August, he said.
“Barb’s done a great job with (the volunteers),” the police chief said. “She had a great relationship with them and them with her. We’re going to need someone with that type of personality, who can build and develop relationships . . . with businesses and citizens. It’ll take a special person.”
Before their vote, Don Reynolds, a 12-year veteran of VIP, urged the council to reconsider the layoff.
“The elimination of the city’s coordinator position does not seem to be consistent with maintaining an effective, well-coordinated and premier program,” said Reynolds, a 42-year resident of Thousand Oaks. “And it will also be inconsistent with other city volunteer groups, which I believe all have city oversight.”
Councilmember Andy Fox, who along with Mayor Jacqui Irwin, sat on the city finance committee that suggested eliminating the position, told Reynolds that all of his concerns had been brought up.
“We looked at this issue extensively. . . .” Fox said. “Virtually all the things you raised were discussed at the finance meeting.”
D’anjou was in charge of working with the sheriff’s department and the city to establish policies and procedures for the VIPs and ensure they were followed. She also served as an advocate for the volunteers when matters arose with the department and headed up the Citizens Academy.
During the council meeting, Pentis praised VIP, saying the department would not do anything to hurt the program or its volunteers. The veteran Ventura County lawman, who was named TOPD chief in March, said he weighed the decision heavily.
“I looked at this for almost a month and gave careful thought and analysis and looked at the 10-year history . . . and (the elimination of the coordinator) will not impact VIP or the community that we serve,” Pentis said.
The shutdown of the city’s redevelopment agency earlier this year is largely to blame for a projected $2.3-million budget gap in 2012-13 and subsequent layoffs, according to city officials.
The RDA’s closure by the state led to a $1.4-million shortfall in the city’s $66.4-million general fund and the May layoffs of three employees with jobs related to the agency. Three vacant positions were eliminated, and another three employees working for the RDA were transferred to other jobs.
The staff reductions—along with the VIP coordinator and the customer service rep—were part of the $166-million budget adopted by the council.
Salaries and benefits are the city’s biggest expense. In four years, 93 employees have been laid off, according to a city staff report.
“Staffing has been reduced over 15 percent since 2008,” slashing the number of positions from 597 to 504, Finance Director John Adams told the council.
Fox said it’s never easy cutting jobs but those are the kinds of decisions the council members were elected to make.
“While other cities use gimmicks, reserve funds, a variety of smoke and mirrors . . . we don’t do that here in Thousand Oaks. When we say we have a balanced budget, we (do),” Fox said. “It’s obvious we make difficult choices.”
Councilmember Claudia Bill-de la Peña said the city may have to make additional cuts.
“It’s not over. We will have to revisit everything next year. I’m sure there will be more changes to come,” she said. “The proposal . . . will keep us afloat for the next couple of years.”