San Carlos Contemplates Deep Cuts in Police, Fire, and Park Services.

December 14, 2009

Is all of this talk about budget cuts giving you indigestion?

Unfortunately, it's only just the beginning.  In tonight's San Carlos City Council meeting, the “new” Council (welcome aboard Andy Klein!) will vote on the proposed operating budget reductions that were the decided on earlier this year.   These cuts in service and personnel are estimated to save the City nearly $707,000 in the upcoming fiscal year.  For more details on what will likely face the axe in tonight's vote, download this file:

San Carlos Proposed Budget Cuts

As tough as these cuts are to take, they shouldn't come as a surprise. They've been on the chopping block since May/June of this year in anticipation of a budget shortfall,  and now with the failure of Measure U it's highly likely that the Council will vote to enact these cuts.  But if you think this is the last you'll hear about cuts in services, think again — these cuts only address the expected shortfall for the '09-'10 fiscal year.

Looking ahead to 2010-11.

In anticipation of an additional budget shortfall, the City Manager has tasked all of the department heads with providing details on how their department would handle budget cuts of 10% and 20% in the 2010-11 budget year.   That information has been made public, and it's pretty scary stuff.  (Note that these proposals are only the starting point for debate and discussion, so they are not being voted on in tonight's meeting.)

Here are the reduction reports from four of the bigger city departments that could greatly impact the enjoyment and safety for ALL San Carlos residents:

#1.   San Carlos Police Department:

Here are the major points from the reduction report that Police Chief Greg Rothaus submitted to the City Manager in order to achieve the required 10% and 20% reduction levels.

10% Reduction Scenario:

  • Elimination of 4 full-time police officers and 1 detective, representing a 20 percent reduction in patrol staffing and 50 percent reduction in detectives.
  • Staffing per shift will be reduced to 2 officers and 1 sergeant for the entire city, on a regular basis.

20% Reduction Scenario:

  • All cuts outlined in the 10% scenario, plus…
  • Reduction of one Police Commander.
  • Elimination of all of the police technicians who support the officers and detectives with critical, time-consuming work.
  • Elimination of 6 police vehicles from the fleet.

What does this mean to you?

  • Without backup, officers will face higher risk in making traffic stops, or in pursuing suspects. They’ll have to work more overtime, and that will increase their level of fatigue.
  • San Carlos won’t be able to rely on backup from Belmont and Redwood City police, because we won’t have enough officers to respond to the other cities’ calls.  This would destroy the mutual aid arrangement and leave our city bare of outside help. We already receive 65 percent more outside assists from neighboring agencies than we provide. And when will those cities start asking for payback?
  • Response times to emergency calls will “increase to dangerous levels.”
  • No response will be made to misdemeanor property crimes, burglar alarms and non-injury accidents.
  • Car burglary?  House burglary?  Vandalism to your property?  You’ll likely be asked to fill out and submit a report online, rather than talk face to face with an officer. And it’s likely that no one will be available to follow up or investigate.

Or to put it in the chief’s words, “Because we frequently have multiple incidents occurring at once, this staffing level can lead to situations that will be unsafe for the public and our officers.”

To see the complete report on the proposed police department cuts, click here–>  San Carlos Police Reductions


#2.  San Carlos Fire Department.

Here are the major points of their proposed cuts to achieve 10/20% budget reduction:

  • Elimination of a Fire Inspector and Disaster Preparedness Officer.
  • Take Truck 14 out of service, and replace with a smaller crew managing a single engine.
  • Reduce operating hours at Station 16 (Howard and Alameda) or close the station entirely.

To see the complete report on the proposed fire department cuts, click here –>   San Carlos Fire Department Reductions


#3.  San Carlos Park and Rec Department

Of all of the departments that were required to submit budget reductions, none will have such an obvious impact as the Park and Rec Department.   Here are just a few of the bigger cuts in their two proposals:

10% Reduction Scenario:

  • Eliminate two staff positions: Recreation Coordinator and a Recreation Supervisor.
  • Cancel Summer Concert Series and Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony.
  • Eliminate support for Hometown Days and Hot Harvest Nights.
  • Close Cedar Park and San Carlos Avenue Park.

20% Reduction Scenario:

  • Close Youth Center.
  • Close both Crestview and Arguello Parks.
  • Drastically reduced maintenance to remaining parks.


#4. San Carlos Department of Public Works.

Want a dark city?  That's exactly what the Department of Public Works has in store if they're forced to reduce their operating budget.  Here are the key points.

  • Take 170 street lights out of service on streets that have no sidewalks. (10% reduction plan.)
  • Take an additional 560 street lights out of service, representing 1/3 of the street light inventory in all of San Carlos.  (20% reduction plan.)

For the complete details, click here –>  San Carlos Public Works Cuts


What's At Stake?

The very fabric of what makes San Carlos a great place to live is at stake right now.  The safety of our citizens and the activities and facilities that we have long taken for granted may be in danger of being stripped away if the City faces another budget short fall.    Even though these scenarios won't be voted on until the middle of 2010 at the earliest, discussions are already starting to take place already as you can tell by the attached reports.

Posted in:


  1. John on December 14, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    While I agree that a maximum number of officers is optimal for a city to keep its citizens feeling and being safe, neighboring cities will not refuse to respond if asked for help. I cannot imagine a scenario where a San Carlos police officer would ask for help from either the Redwood City Police Department or the Belmont Police Department and be turned down.
    Even in cash strapped cities such as Richmond, when they need help and call Oakland, they receive that help.While it is never optimal to cut police or fire making it sound like our city of good living will be fighting off the barbarians at the gate with just a shield and a wish is not entirely accurate.
    Measure U failed, I think, in large part because people are sick of being asked to shell out more and more money on less and less paycheck. An increase in sales tax here, an increase in parcel tax there, we cannot tax our way out of this problem.We all need to work together to help climb our way out of this problem, bring ideas and plans to the city council meeting. We are all in this together.

  2. John on December 14, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    Fire stations closing, no fire inspector available, drastic police cuts, what we really need in order to make an informed decision is an independent third party to cut through all of the gloom and doom and say this is the real impact of these cuts that are proposed. The case is clear, we need to make cuts and those cuts will have an impact of some sort, but lets look at the level of city staffing, for a city of the size of San Carlos, do we really need the staff that we have or can we do with less? The NIMD, Not In My Department attitude doesnt work here.
    While it is nice to have the city sponsor quality of life events such as the concerts and tree lighting ceremony, in this day and age of commercial sponsorship being everywhere, why havent the major merchants of San Carlos been asked to sponsor an event, the Best Buy concert series or the Walgreens tree lighting ceremony.
    The question we as tax payers should be asking is, as we walk our dimly lit streets and closed parks, why do the sons and the daughters of this city have to atone for fiscal sins of the city fathers?

  3. Lucas on December 15, 2009 at 12:34 am

    “During the 1980’s and 1990’s the City enjoyed relative prosperity and economic growth. This growth paved the way for the addition of new City services and facilities such as an Adult Community Center, Youth Center, and Library and the associated recreation programming.”

    The city didn’t have foresight when times were good. Tough cuts are coming and it will be tight for a few years until the economy stabilizes and revenue streams return to 1980-90 levels, but this will ultimately be good for the city. Hopefully after the deficit is taken care of we can grow in a more responsible way. If not, maybe belmont would like to expand?

  4. comeonchuck on December 15, 2009 at 7:14 am

    Concerts in the Park? I lived in San Carlos for 4 years and never went once, same with Hot Harvest Nights. Maybe user fees can be used to pay for this type of stuff so the 10% of the residents who use them can pay for them directly.

    As for the police and fire cuts, As someone who has worked extensivly with budgets in the private sector, EVERY TIME you ask for cuts, you get these types of horror stories. Then you make the cuts, and life goes on, often without missing a beat. If 10% cuts are going to cause this much grief, what does the other 90% of the spending support? What would a 33% cut entail? Motorcycle gangs in the streets?

  5. former San Carlos police officer on December 15, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    ‘@John said “I cannot imagine a scenario where a San Carlos police officer would ask for help from either the Redwood City Police Department or the Belmont Police Department and be turned down.”

    Keep on dreaming John. Mutual aid only exists with certain protocols in place. Backup officers traveling from Belmont or Redwood City would not arrive in time. You’ve probably never laid your life on the line, I have. You don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s why I’m working as a police officer in another city.

  6. Dana on December 15, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Regardless of how you feel about taxes and budget cuts, chuck’s blog has been terrific in summarizing the issues.

  7. Chuck on December 15, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Thank you Dana! This whole situation has me very concerned, especially when it’s as difficult as it is to find some of this critical information. I’m glad that you find these posts informative.


  8. Pasquale on December 15, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    I’m really happy that we are facing this situation. It’s the one chance we get to get rid of Obama’s socialism starting right here in San Carlos. Get rid of big government and higher taxes. Bring it on!

  9. John on December 15, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    To former San Carlos police officer:
    I have indeed laid my life on the line and know what it is like to have to call in reinforcements.I have seen more action in more places and been shot at more times than I care to mention.
    An officer couldnt get from Belmont to somewhere in San Carlos in time? How about the Sherrif’s Office? Will they turn down an officer needs assistance call? The highway patrol that is ever present on the El Camino, or who’s office is in Redwood City and a San Carlos police officer, or for that matter any police officer calls for help that they would look at their mutual aide agreement first and then decide?
    Lets be realistic, if San Carlos needs help from a neighboring jurisdiction, they will get it. Ask a Redwood City police officer or a Belmont police officer or any officer, if an officer needs help and calls out, they will get help.
    The job police officers do is a tough job even in a city the size of San Carlos, no one is minimizing that. What we need is to keep in perspective is that there has to be cuts, the cuts may be in the police department and instead of treating the PD like the third rail of city government, not to be touched, we need to take a hard look at the numbers of all of the departments.

  10. Vern on December 15, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    Where has all of the money for the city gone? As a physician I diagnose this city to be sick and in need of financial repair. Like many other in White Oaks, I paid a premium to be in this neighborhood, where are my property taxes going to? Concerts and hometown days are a nice luxury, but not in this economy, not in these times.

  11. Frank on December 15, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    I happen to agree with John. We should shut down the the Police Dept and Fire Dept. We need to get to our roots and get back to the days of a volunteer police and fire department. Think of the number of bored seniors and stay at home moms that could volunteer by doing patrol duty or creating a second career as a volunteer firefighter. We definetly don’t need Public Works. If there is a problem, just bid it out to private contractors. As far as the athletic fields, just hire those mow and blow guys. No unions and no benefits to pay for. In fact, I can’t think of a single city service that can’t be outsourced. The trouble is that we hear the same doom and gloom arguments every time. Go ahead, fire everybody! Or at least encourage them to quit. Like another poster said, get rid of Obama socialism.

  12. Bill on December 16, 2009 at 12:09 am

    Best point made at city council last night is that police/fire represents both the biggest (well over half) AND fastest growing segment of the SC budget. Time to take a hard look at these two cost centers. Excessive overtime is a huge problem. Stubborn, intractable unions are issues here, too. Vast majority (75%) of “fire” calls are simple medical calls. And many of these are to the same repeat offenders. Why not send 2 guys in a Prius instead of a full engine company every time? Think of the money that could be saved.

  13. J on December 16, 2009 at 3:44 am

    For all the news about the city’s budget cuts, I’ve heard nothing about a reduction in the employee’s extremely generous retirement benefits package, which is better than many other public agencies. In addition, I will never vote for a general tax that can be used by the City any way they see fit. Sure, parks and libraries were threatened but there was no guarantee that is where the proposed sales tax proceeds would have gone. Had there been a specific tax for parks and libraries, I would have voted for it and that is what the City should have done, even though it would have required a higher voter approval threshold.

  14. Jack on December 17, 2009 at 12:32 am

    Whichever way this turns out, we got to make sure there’s no health insurance benefits or pension benefits given to these fat cat city workers. The FDR-Obama socialism path needs to be blocked.

  15. grewupinsc on December 31, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Hey yeah…let’s not have police. There’s no crime in San Carlos.

    On December 29, 2009 at approximately 9:45pm, an attempted armed robbery occurred at the Taqueria Mi Ranchito Mexican restaurant located at 660 Laurel Street in downtown San Carlos.

    The suspect entered the restaurant through the back door, confronted employees with a handgun, and demanded money from the register.

    The suspect is described as a Hispanic male, 18-20 years old, approximately 5’4″ tall, with a medium build, wearing a black jacket with a white shirt underneath and a black beanie cap.

  16. grewupinsc on December 31, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    Hey…let’s “get back to our roots” and have a volunteer police dept. Brilliant! No crime in San Carlos. So why not? We’re a regular Norman Rockwell painting, right?

    On December 29, 2009 at approximately 7:45pm, an armed robbery occurred at the Best Buy store located at 1127 Industrial Road in San Carlos.

    The suspect entered the store and selected specific items of merchandise from the display shelves. When the suspect tried to leave out the back door with the merchandise, he was confronted by a store employee. The suspect pointed a handgun at the employee and then left out the back door with the merchandise.

  17. grewupinsc on December 31, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    Boy, our “volunteer Police Department” sure will be busy….oh wait, nothing happens in San Carlos. We exist in a crimeless bubble.

    On December 29, 2009 at approximately 7:45pm, an armed robbery occurred at the Best Buy store located at 1127 Industrial Road in San Carlos.

    The suspect entered the store and selected specific items of merchandise from the display shelves. When the suspect tried to leave out the back door with the merchandise, he was confronted by a store employee. The suspect pointed a handgun at the employee and then left out the back door with the merchandise.

  18. JB on January 2, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Frank- I certainly hope you’re kidding. Volunteer police officers and firefighters? So, when you have your home burglarized or a heart attack, you’d like “stay at home moms” and “seniors” responding for aid? I’m quoting you by the way. What a ridiculous concept. It doesn’t seem like you have any clue about the good things that occur in this city because of hard working people. Everybody knocks the city workers, but I don’t hear people complaining when the sewer backs up on a Saturday and workers rush out to fix it or when the police respond to NUMEROUS barking dog calls everyday because neighbors cannot work with each other or when thousands of people enjoy the free events put on by the City – events that help make San Carlos unique and special. I guess it’s always fun to point the finger and place blame rather than look at the fact that the economy might have something to do with this. Or that the City gets far less than any other city in property taxes .Or that the City is the only one in the County that doesn’t have a utility tax or some other special tax to help pay for these FREE services. Every other City in this County recognizes that in hard times, sacrifices must be made by all- yes, employees included!! Have you not heard about the layoffs that have been approved? Were you aware of the freezes on salaries that many unions took for over 3 years? Or the reduction in benefits that went into effect last year? What makes the people of San Mateo different? They just passed their tax measures. Their employees don’t make any less.When do the people of San Carlos realize that this City of Good Living begins on the backs of the hard working employees and citizens who work hard to keep things going…?

  19. mike on January 2, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    Everyone makes an exemplary points as to the budget cuts. Why not look at other cities in the county and see what they have done to gain a better service while save some extra cash. Take Half moon bay for instance, they contracted with cal fire and in one year increased there work force by 10 firefighters, was able to better there wild land responses by being a part of the largest wild land organization in the world, keep up on fleet programs paid for by the state and save the district 1.8 million dollars with in one year with 3 fire stations.

  20. JB on January 3, 2010 at 7:22 am

    Also, if you really believe that nothing happens in San Carlos, I took these stats from Andy Klein on one of the other budget related posting on this website. The following are police calls from the month of November…one months worth!

    74 arrests
    787 alarm/open door calls
    51 accidents/hit and run calls
    667 traffic stops/directed enforcemet
    67 medical calls
    15 outside agency assists
    16 solicitor calls
    96 suspicious person/vehicle calls
    47 disturbance calls
    30 burglary calls
    46 city ordinance violation calls
    23 fire assist calls
    12 fraud calls
    14 hazard calls
    11 vandalism calls
    52 theft calls
    33 parking complaints
    133 911 hang-up response calls
    35 welfare checks
    45 abandoned vehicle calls
    19 vehicle breakdown calls
    3 robbery calls
    18 reckless vehicle calls
    6 drunk driver calls
    7 assault calls
    1 rape call
    2 stolen vehicle calls/4 recovered stolen vehicle calls
    9 missing person calls/2 returned person calls
    331 other calls of various types

  21. Chuck on January 3, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    You can add two recent armed-robberies to the list, too, including the one at Best Buy a few days ago.

Leave a Comment