At the request of the Council, the heads of each town department submitted recommendations that would reduce the budget by 15 percent, or about $14 million.
The deficit is currently projected at about $15 million, but that number could grow if the state, which is wrestling with its own budget shortfall, reduces Gilbert’s portion of state-shared revenue.
The proposed cuts include the elimination of about 124 employee positions, including 65 within the Police Department and 29 from the Fire Department. Those and other possible cuts were to be discussed at tonight’s Town Council meeting at 7 p.m.
Along with the recommendations, the department heads included a brief analysis of the impact the cuts may have on town services.
If the Police Department is forced to eliminate 17 officers from two traffic units, the department said it would save an estimated $885,000 but have fewer resources for DUI enforcement, speed enforcement and collision investigations.
Likewise, the recommendation to lay off 14 patrol officers, one from each patrol team, would save about $1.3 million but reduce police presence on Gilbert streets and likely increase response times, according to the Police Department report to Council.
Gilbert already has one of the lowest officer-to-resident ratios in the Valley.
As of October, Gilbert had about 1.03 police officers per 1,000 residents. By comparison, Phoenix’s ratio was 2.31, Mesa’s was 1.80 and Chandler’s was 1.32.
Among possible cuts in the Fire Department is the elimination of an entire company, comprised of 12 employees.
If required, the cut would lead to an increased fire response time and “possible loss of life and property due to more than a 4-minute response time,” according to a town document outlining the budget recommendations.
Other fire department positions that could be axed include two fire investigators, three battalion chiefs and three captains, cutting almost $1 million in expenses.
Community-service reductions could also affect Gilbert libraries and recreation centers.
The proposed cuts would close Gilbert Pool and Mesquite Aquatic Center and reduce library hours at the Southeast Regional and Perry Branch libraries.
In all, the potential layoffs represent more than 13 percent of about 900 town employee positions within the general fund.
The 15-percent department cuts have been previously discussed by the Town Council as a last resort to be used if a better solution cannot be found.
One alternative to the budget cuts would be generating additional revenue through new or increased taxes. The Council last month voted to send a sales-tax increase to the ballot, and some on the Council have voiced support for a local use tax.
The quarter-cent sales-tax increase, which Gilbert voters can decide on in May, could provide an additional $6 million to $7 million in public-safety funding.
The Council also plans to examine a list of town employee suggestions, along with a handful of council member recommendations, in hopes of finding an alternative to layoffs and drastic budget cuts.