Reality paycheck

Chicoans have gone through days of reckoning this week, with bracing financial statements coming from its big-three public entities. As detailed in Newslines, Chico State University held a campus-wide meeting delineating the impact that state budget cuts would have; the city Finance Committee looked at an across-the-board spending slash of 7.5 percent; and the Chico Unified School District considered serious measures—including school closures—that could be just the tip of the iceberg.

None of these situations is breaking news, but talk about a 1-2-3 punch …

City and CUSD problems have an additional complexity. The city is in negotiations with the police officers’ union, and Chico teachers are up for a new contract after the school year. It goes without saying that reducing spending and giving raises are contradictory actions.

Police Chief Bruce Hagerty again floated the idea of a safety tax, but with money tight everywhere, how receptive will the voting public be?

We’ll reiterate something we’ve written repeatedly: Make your priorities known. Look at city and CUSD budgets—out in the open on their Web sites—and tell your officials how to proceed.

That applies to public employees, too. If this week has shown us anything, it’s that cuts are really coming. With contracts in place, management’s only recourse is to cut positions—and thus increase the workloads of surviving employees while reducing service levels.

The employee unions need to ask themselves: Do we want higher pay and raises and fewer members, or contracts that maintain high staffing levels and keep colleagues working? The ball is in their court.