SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) The Santa Cruz City Council finalized nearly $6 million in budget cuts Thursday night. The police department was forced to cut almost $2 million in the budget shortfall, and decided to eliminate 12 police rangers and several other positions in the department.
Five of the rangers will be reassigned as community service officers. The rangers main duties are to maintain and patrol city recreational and open space (including neighborhood and community parks).
“So that gives us a little more latitude with what we can do with the rangers," Santa Cruz Police Chief Andy Mills said. "Still keep them in the parks doing problem solving and neighborhood policing, but it's going to be fewer personnel involved in the department.”
The department also had to slash several community programs, including like a gang intervention program. The department has to freeze several high level positions, and there will be less training for police officers.
“I’m very concerned about how we move on from this point on,” Mills said.
“We try to cut as many non-personnel services as possible,” Santa Cruz City Manager Martín Bernal said.
The pandemic cost the city millions in tourism dollars this summer, which is an industry that holds Santa Cruz afloat.
“We receive hotel tax, sales tax, and admission tax. A variety of tax sources that right now are not operating like they normally do,” Bernal said.
Bernal says the revenue losses will also mean another $4 million in cuts next year.
“We’re not going to be able to see any surpluses or any ability to recoup or restore until maybe 2026,” the city manager said.
Parks and recreation are also facing more than a million dollars in one time cuts while less services are open during the pandemic.
Without as many police rangers monitoring the parks, some worry it could mean less safety around the city.
“Given we have a large population of house less folks around the parks that is going to allow another layer the police force is going to have to pick up without the rangers,” one resident said.
The police department makes up about 30% of the City of Santa Cruz's general fund.