FREMONT — City employees, including police officers and firefighters, are being asked to take six days of unpaid leave during the next year to help Fremont close a projected $11.4 million deficit.
Officials are still negotiating with unions about the plan, which would save the city about $1.8 million, and likely result in City Hall being closed during the last two weeks of December.
The proposal, while unpopular, "certainly (would have less impact) on city employees than laying off permanent staff," said Kathy Cote, who heads the Fremont Association of Management Employees.
The city is not proposing layoffs or major service cuts for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins in July.
Fremont this week unveiled a $134.5 million general-fund budget that would pull the city out of the red by exhausting its rainy day reserve fund, implementing unpaid leave and putting off scheduled road repairs, building maintenance work, and vehicle and computer purchases.
"Somehow we're keeping it all together with rubber bands and baling wire," City Manager Fred Diaz said.
Last year, the city had to take more draconian steps to balance its books — slashing department budgets, laying off several workers and doing away with street tree maintenance.
Since the 2008 financial collapse, Fremont has shed about 8 percent of its work force and burned through most of its $19.6 million rainy day reserve fund.
The cuts have left Fremont with its lowest staffing ratios in two decades, but the city has generally weathered the economic downturn better than neighboring Newark, which has already cut salaries and turned over control of its Fire Department to Alameda County.
Fremont has no intention of contracting out its fire services, Diaz said.
Last year, city unions approved contracts that provided no raises over two years — marking the first time city workers went without cost-of-living increases since 1993.
The city still has more than $18 million in reserves set aside for a natural disaster and economic development opportunities.
City revenues this year are anticipated to drop by nearly 7 percent, led by a 9.4 percent sales tax decrease. Sales tax revenue is forecast to rebound slightly over the next year. However, property taxes, which make up about half of the city's operating budget, are expected to drop slightly because of commercial properties whose values have decreased, Finance Director Harriet Commons said.
The city will hold public hearings on the budget June 1 and 8, with the council expected to adopt the proposed budget after the June 8 hearing.