With the city's budget deadline just days away, the Fresno City Council appears close to embracing Mayor Ashley Swearengin's plan to balance the budget by privatizing residential trash collection.The plan would continue a venture into private trash service that the city began last year with a decision to save money by handing over garbage collection at businesses to independent haulers.Doing the same for home pickup would raise the stakes to some 110,000 customers -- and at the expense of as many as 177 city jobs."It's very difficult for this organization to even look at this. It was a difficult process to get through the last time. It will be a difficult process this time," council President Clint Olivier said Wednesday. "But unfortunately it's something we have to consider."The City Council will decide on privatizing residential garbage pickup as soon as today when discussion of the projected $232.7 million general fund continues.Rejection of the privatization plan would leave big questions about how city leaders can patch an estimated $12 million budget hole. The city is required to have a balanced budget in place by the beginning of the fiscal year on Sunday.Until this week, Swearengin had hoped to balance the city budget largely with salary concessions from employees. Those savings didn't materialize, however, sending the mayor back to the drawing board with the clock ticking.Her revised budget proposal, released Tuesday night, relies heavily on accounting maneuvers: reducing payments to the city's pension fund, raising expectations for sales-tax proceeds and counting on additional savings from employee retirements.While the salary cuts are not struck from the budget, they're adjusted downward. And a few new cost-savings measures are introduced.Outsourcing residential trash service is one of the more controversial.Under the plan, Swearengin expects to charge private trash haulers a franchise fee and generate about $2.5 million annually. About $1 million would come next fiscal year because the plan would take time to get off the ground.But Marina Magdaleno, the union representative who speaks for the city's garbage collectors, clerks and mechanics, said the projections are not as rosy as they seem. Private haulers, in order to handle their costs, would ultimately raise rates for customers, she speculated."The residents of the city of Fresno are going to be stuck with these consequences long after these politicians leave office," she said. "The only people that will be left are the rate payers, paying the higher rates."Council Member Blong Xiong, who was on the losing end of last year's 4-3 vote to privatize commercial pickup, said he is torn over the latest proposal."The jury is still out on what we've been able to do on the commercial side ... whether we think it's efficient or not," he said.The mayor said Wednesday that she thinks she'll win the votes she needs to move forward with privatization."We have so few options left there's not much to argue about," she said.The council also took issue with the mayor's plan to save $600,000 by not rehiring police officers who leave the job over the next 12 months. City officials estimate that nine of roughly 745 police officers will depart in the coming fiscal year.Council members pointed to the city's high crime rates, particularly the rash of shootings in recent months."It's regrettable to have to go to this step, obviously," said City Manager Mark Scott, who helped devise the mayor's budget proposal.For more than three years the city, like other local governments, has faced budget cuts as a result of the weak economy.Consequently, Fresno leaders have cut more than a quarter of the work force and trimmed services to the public, from parks to public works to public safety.Scott said Wednesday that he thinks the city has hit bottom and the financial picture will begin to improve.City leaders, in the coming budget year, still are holding out hope that they can win $4.2 million of pay concessions from the Fresno Police Officers Association. The police have a contract through June 2015, so any give-backs are voluntary.FPOA President Jacky Parks said he believes union members are willing to give the city what it wants, but only in exchange for a one-year contract extension. City leaders have been unwilling to extend the contract, wanting to reopen contract negotiations sooner rather than later.Parks doesn't appear hopeful about a quick resolution."This is starting to get more about we've got to get back at the FPOA," he said. "It's all political."