Sacramento airport to cut 12 sheriff’s positions

Sacramento International Airport will trim 12 security positions as part of an ongoing cost-cutting effort, officials said Friday.

The reductions will be made in the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department unit at the airport, and not from federal security checkpoints, which are staffed and managed by the Transportation Security Administration.

Sacramento County Airports Director John Wheat said he is making the cuts as part of his effort to reduce the airport budget by 15 percent in the next year and a half.

The county’s airport department is saddled with more than $1 billion in debt from the recent construction of its new Terminal B. That project – the largest in county history – was launched just as the recession hit, with an unanticipated 20 percent drop in fliers since 2007.

Wheat was hired last year by the Board of Supervisors with marching orders to improve the airport’s finances.

Wheat said the move will decrease sheriff’s staffing levels at the airport from 43 to 31. He said he and sheriff’s officials have agreed on shift changes they say will minimize the impact.

“We’re still safe and secure,” he said. “We are getting similar coverage, and meeting TSA requirements.”

TSA officials did not respond to a Bee request for comment on the changes.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Lisa Bowman said the cuts were the result of negotiations with the airport department. The cuts include one captain’s position, one sergeant, eight deputies and two non-sworn-security officer positions. Bowman said officers will be reassigned to other Sheriff’s Department details.

“We are still able to say we feel we can adequately perform this function with this budget cut,” Bowman said.

County Supervisor Phil Serna, in an email to The Bee, said he also is confident the plan maintains the public safety.

The cuts are among a series of cost reductions and efficiencies at the airport, Wheat said. The airport also has eliminated one shuttle bus that ran between the two terminals.

Wheat said his staff is looking into purchasing a $2.5 million security door system, already in use at several airports, that will allow the airport to save $500,000 a year in reduced staff costs at the Terminal B concourse building.

He said the airport also is exploring buying kiosks that will allow passengers to pay for parking while walking through the terminal. That will allow drivers to leave the airport faster, Wheat said, and will allow the airport to reduce parking booth staff.

The airport also has asked its private vendors to reduce costs and look for efficiencies. At least one vendor, a parking company, has begun reducing staffing, officials said.

Wheat said the airport also has cut back on window washing, from once a month to twice a year, with an expected savings of $240,000 annually.