CHULA VISTA, Calif.—Chula Vista's projected budget shortfall has scores of police officer positions and multiple public services hanging in the balance.
The City of Chula Vista is facing a budget deficit of at least $12.5 million in 2011. On Tuesday night, hundreds of residents and city employees packed the city council chambers to speak in favor of programs they deem vital.
"We just want to live. We just want a place to be," said a resident, who shed tears over the potential closure of a senior center.
Many others stood before the podium emotional about proposed slashed to the library system.
"We are the people who one day stepped thru the library doors and were told, 'Take this free card with this you, if you promise to return it. You can borrow anything you'd like,'" said a volunteer librarian.
One by one residents of Chula Vista stood before the City Council to talk about how drastic budget cuts would hurt them.
Thirty-three police officer positions were among the proposed cuts.
"We already can't handle the calls that our put on our plate as it is," said Fred Rowbath of the Chula Vista Police Officer's Association. "It's dumb luck that something catastrophic hasn't happened to jeopardize the safety of the public or our officers."
However, city leaders said it's the unions like the Chula Vista P.O.A. that need to come to the bargaining table to ensure what's best for the community.
Mayor Cheryl Cox said, "We can close this $12 million gap. It's called pension reform."
"My hope is that I can continue to work with the employee and they would be willing to pay their share of the retirement and not take raises," City Manager Jim Sandoval said. "If they're willing to do that we can bridge that $12.5 million dollar gap and not take layoffs."