These are challenging times for the Pleasanton police department leaders.
In a more normal economy with typical city revenues flowing, the department has an authorized staffing of 87 sworn officers. That’s a bit higher than the traditional standard of one sworn officer per 1,000 residents, but Pleasanton is an unusual community. Not only does it have nearly 70,000 residents, it has a regional shopping center, a business district with a daytime population of 50,000 plus plenty of other retail that is adjacent to two major interstate freeways.
The city leadership, wisely, embarked upon a soft hiring freeze when the revenue downturn hit a few years ago. The city has an enviable sales tax and property tax revenue base, but both slipped as the economy plunged and the bottom on the property tax is still looming, particularly on the retail and office sectors.
That freeze dropped the funded staffing levels to 81 positions, but currently the department has nine officers out on short-term disability. That means, including the management staff, almost 20 percent of the normal staff are unavailable. The department averages between 3 and 5 officers out on short-term disability so this is an unusual situation.
For Chief Dave Spiller, it means that the patrol shifts are the top priority. Fortunately, this is the summer when the four officers normally assigned to school duty are available for routine patrol slots. The department has charted its calls for service—Tuesdays are notably lighter than Fridays and Saturdays—so it staffs accordingly.
Nonetheless, Chief Dave and the leadership will be happy to see some of the officers regain their health and return to full duty.
For residents, it is a reminder that even a city as wealthy as Pleasanton is effected by the economy. Compared to other communities—such as Eastern Contra Costa County where one-third of the fire stations have been shuttered after a parcel tax failed—Pleasanton is doing just fine. The budget gap is Contra Costa stems from the plunge in property values that had soared for nearly a decade before falling by 50 percent or more.
It’s similar in other outlying communities where property values have plummeted. Values in Pleasanton fell less and have stabilized and started to climb which is good news for the city as well as the homeowners.