OAKLAND — The City Council could vote tonight to direct Oakland administrators to take the steps needed to deliver layoff notices to as many as 200 police officers later this month.
The city is grappling with a $31.5 million deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1, and officials have said it is impossible to balance the budget without outside revenue, laying off police, or securing major concessions from Oakland's police and fire unions.
Roughly 75 percent of the city's $400 million general fund goes to the police and fire departments.
If council members approve tonight's proposal, however, it does not necessarily mean police officers will be cut. Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente said he brought the item to his colleagues so that if they do end up cutting police, the city can implement changes as close to July 1 as possible.
"We do this with every other layoff," De La Fuente said. "The school district does it with teachers."
The council will meet at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.
Under De La Fuente's proposal, the city administration would be asked to be prepared immediately to issue up to 200 layoff notices to police if the cuts are made at a June 24 budget hearing.
A report from the city's human resources department said if police are cut June 24, the officers' last day would be July 13.
Nothing is set in stone. The police union and the city are in talks about reopening the officers' contract. De La Fuente and others have said police should pay 9 percent of their salaries into their retirement plans.
Neither side would say much about the discussions Monday, but Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, president of the Oakland Police Officers Association, said that with fewer police, Oakland will be more dangerous. Oakland has 776 police officers.
"Just think how much more dangerous this city's going to be with 200 fewer police officers," Arotzarena said. "We're not sure what can be done about the enormous budget shortfall, but "... they have to look at what's important to the city — and that's safety."
According to FBI data, reports of violent crime dropped by 14 percent in Oakland last year, and crime is continuing to drop this year. Many Oakland residents fear the loss of more than a quarter of the Police Department would stop that trend in its tracks.
Arotzarena said the responsibility for the deficit shouldn't fall only on police.
"We can't be the only people to do this," he said.
City Council President Jane Brunner proposed $20 million in budget-balancing measures June 2 that didn't include police cuts. Even with all those measures, the city still would be $11.5 million short.
Asked about possible union concessions, Brunner said, "We've been talking, but we haven't gotten there, and don't know if we're going to. I'm hoping, but I don't know."