Leasing

City of Stockton Considering Cutting Car Perks for City Officials

March 30, 2009

STOCKTON, CA – Stockton's city fleet and cars given to city employees as a perk are being scrutinized during its current fiscal crisis, according to the Stockton Record.

According to city records, the City of Stockton owns more than 1,000 diverse vehicles, about 80 percent of which are police vehicles, Public Works or Municipal Utility equipment, or fire apparatus.

Most are workhorses: dump trucks, patrol cars, utility pickups, or specialized stock such as pavers, rider-mowers, or contraptions such as Zambonis that smooth the ice.

Still, hundreds of employees are given vehicles to use by day. Some take them home.

City vehicle policy says, "The City will not furnish basic 'to and from work' transportation... Vehicles are made available to City employees to facilitate the conduct of City business."

The policy, however, acknowledges that many employees do have take-home cars. It vows to curtail this practice "through attrition."

Attrition appears not to have caught up with city brass. A few examples:

Fire Chief Ron Hittle drives a taxpayer-purchased 2008 Toyota Camry hybrid; Police Chief Blair Ulring, a 2005 Buick LeSabre; Fire Marshall Matt Duaime, a '99 Mercury Grand Marquis.

Chiefs are by no means the only ones given take-home cars.

So are deputy police chiefs, police captains, police lieutenants, deputy fire chiefs, the training chief, deputy fire marshals, arson inspectors, and other public safety employees.

Employees gas up free at city pumps. But this benefit is taxed.

Others who use their own cars are paid 58.5 cents a mile.

Police Department spokesman Pete Smith. Smith takes home a 2000 Ford Taurus. Three to four times a week, he is called out for critical incidents or media, he said. In Smith's case, he represents his department; must respond quickly; and, using his family car could conceivably endanger him or his family were that car later to be identified, according to the Stockton Record.

Finally, an elite few in City Hall get paid monthly allowances to drive their own vehicles.

City Manager Gordon Palmer is paid $450 a month. City Attorney Ren Nosky gets $400; a dozen other administrators and department heads get $355, including Assistant to the City Manager Terry Bentz.

Perk cars are not the lion's share of fleet costs. In fiscal 2007-08, the fleet cost (all in millions) $4.7 to maintain, $1.9 to fuel, $1.9 in vehicle replacement and $1.6 in administration costs. Total taxpayer hit: $10.1 million.

City Councilman Dale Fritchen, whose Budget and Finance Committee is struggling to solve the $30 million deficit, cast a skeptical eye on perk cars.

"We need to eliminate all the perks," Fritchen asserted. "Those who do occasionally get called out for work always get reimbursed from the city. For these times they need to use their car. Eighty percent of the time it is not used for city purposes."

 

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