Rohnert Park City Manager Visits Association

Rohnert Park’s new city manager Gabe Gonzalez visited the Association at its meeting on November 17 and addressed many of the changes going on in Rohnert Park. Having come to Rohnert Park from the City of Mendota in August, 2010, Gonzales inherited a city on the verge of bankruptcy with only 18 months’ worth of cash available and struggling under the burden of unsustainable employee wage and benefit contracts. A $2.1 million budget deficit was predicted for 2012. Fully 78% of the city’s $28 million budget was dedicated to employee wage and benefit obligations. Perhaps Gonzalez’s most high profile accomplishment in his short tenure has been the successful renegotiation of the RP Public Safety Employees wage and benefits contract. While many have pointed to his discussions with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office regarding the provision of contract law enforcement services to the city as having provided the catalyst necessary to negotiate wage and benefit concessions, Gonzalez insists that was not the case. Discussions with the Sheriff have been part of broader discussions with the county, neighboring cities and the private sector to explore consolidation of services and the resulting elimination of duplication and inefficiencies. Those discussions, he says, were not intended to pressure the employee unions into accepting wage and benefit concessions. The key to the public safety negotiations, he says, was the strong and unified backing of the city council. While some council members continue to have strong ties to the employee union, the council as a whole recognized the unsustainable path of its current employee contracts and the need to make adjustments for the future financial security of the city. As a result of those negotiations, RP public safety employees now contribute 100% of their employee share to their pension. Still, there is work left to do. Compensation enhancements to officers qualified as field training officers (FTOs), detectives, motorcycle officers and others continue to be paid even though the recipient officer no longer serves in the capacity for which the enhancement is provided. In total, city expenditures have been reduced $7.1 million this past year and a budget surplus of $650,000 is projected.

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