The city's budget to hire more cops, maintain parks, and keep certain city jobs is being slashed according to mid-year cuts outlined today by Beth Goldberg, the city's acting finance director. The most contentious item, by far, is the salary for 21 additional police officers that the city council budgeted for last year with $2.1 million.

Jean Godden, chair of the city council's budget committee, issued a statement this afternoon thanking the mayor for the budget proposal, but tacked on a salty note: “I am concerned that the Mayor has slowed the hiring of police officers this year. We remain committed to working with him to implement the Neighborhood Policing Plan as soon as possible."

Owing to declining tax revenues, Mayor Mike McGinn must cut $11.7 million from the city's general fund for the rest of 2010. McGinn maintained funding for firefighters, citing the death of five people in a fire in Fremont over the weekend.

In all, $12.4 million is savings are culled from several departments. Among them: Parks will lose $1.67 million, largely by cutting maintenance of lawns and trash, reducing personnel costs, and shutting down and reducing access to wading pools (only five wading pools will be open seven days a week: Greenlake, Lincoln, Magnuson, Van Asselt, and Volunteer Park); libraries lose $1.17 million, largely by cutting staff but not by reducing any library hours; human services is losing about $246,000 in salary and operating costs. Lots of other programs are being severely cut (full outline in this .pdf).

Godden's criticism about police hiring echoes a letter from the full council to the mayor in April, which said, "We are troubled by the halt in hiring net new officers and that this decision was made without consulting the Council.... We request that you direct the Chief of Police to proceed with the hiring necessary to keep the city on track to achieve a net increase of 20 patrol officers this year."

Goldberg says the cuts to police are justified. "I would say that if we didn't find the cuts in police, we would make more cuts to things like libraries, parks, and things of that nature," she says. "We have heard from communities that they value these services, and we feel that the package we have put forward continues to emphasize public safety, with officers on patrol being at record high levels."

Even at existing police staffing, 911 call response times are improving, with a record 556 sworn officers are able to respond to emergency calls. In 2008, the average response was 7.5 minutes, in 2009 it was 6.5 minutes, and so far this year, it is 6 minutes or less, says Goldberg.

Despite the council's calls to step up the number of officers—in line with the city's neighborhood policing plan, which calls for 20 more officers a year—the plan "made it very clear that if the city found itself in financial stress there would be delay of implementation," Goldebrg says, "and I would say it is clear we are in a time of financial distress."

Godden's office has asked the mayor to issue a plan on how to meet the city's long-range goal of hiring 100 new officers over five years, possibly by delaying the time line.

But even next year, the city is facing a $56 million shortfall. Goldberg has outlined various scenarios for those cuts—which also don't boost the number f officers—which I detail over here.

The mayor is also cutting 13 full-time positions: planning and development specialist, housing ordinance specialist, administrative specialist, administrative specialist, graphics arts designer, strategic advisor, training development & program coordinator, senior personnel analyst, IT specialist/programmer analyst, administrative assistant, training program coordinator, and a technology operations assistant. Those layoffs take effect on July 20.