FLINT, Michigan — There will be 80 fewer police officers and firefighters on the streets of Flint after the city issues layoff notices Thursday to try to avoid a projected $8 million deficit.
Flint Mayor Dayne Walling announced today
that 57 police officers and 23 firefighters will be laid off indefinitely. The layoffs go into effect in two weeks.
At least one, and possibly two, fire stations will be closed
due to the firefighter layoffs, Walling said.
"This is tough," Walling said. "I struggle with these numbers every day."
Union leaders said the cuts represent about a third of the police force
and about a quarter of the fire department.
"(The police department) is going to be like putting a band-aid on a bazooka wound on a person's chest," said Keith Speer, president of the Flint Police Officers Association. "I just don't get it."
The layoff announcement comes four days after a weekend fire killed four young children in a Flint townhouse on the city's north end.
Walling's administration will present the budget cuts to the Flint City Council
at its committee meeting at 5 p.m. today.
Walling said the city will do its best to maintain a quality public safety force.
"I know that many will question this decision at a time when the community has clearly stated that public safety is its No. 1 priority," the mayor said. "We will continue to have the largest public safety force that we can afford."
He said the layoffs were necessary after the city's four public safety unions could not come to an agreement on 15 percent concessions after months of negotiations.
The concessions would have saved the city $2.6 million, while the layoffs will save the city $1.5 million, he said.
The president of the city's firefighters' union said he doesn't know how the fire department will function after 23 of its 88 firefighters are laid off.
Raul Garcia of Flint Firefighters Union Local 352 said he is "dumbfounded" about the cuts.
"I'm extremely worried, and if the citizens of the city of Flint don’t just get irate about this — I’m just going to be dumbfounded if they don't," he said. "I don’t know how they expect us to function, but as firefighters we’re going to the best we can."
Walling said the city wouldn't be in this position in the first place if former administrations had been more financially responsible.
"The common cause in all these cases is there wasn't repsonsible leadership at a point in time dealing with a budget concern," he said. "The era of fiscal irresponsibility is over."
The city and the unions are now heading to arbitration, he said.
Walling said if the unions agree to some concessions in the next two weeks, some or all of the layoffs might not be necessary.
He said the 15 percent concessions the city is asking for include wage cuts as well as employees to taking on 15 percent to 20 percent of their health care costs.
To those who worry about crime in Flint, Walling said the city will do its best with the resources it has.
"This city has seen high crime with much larger police forces than we have today," he said. "We can provide a high quality public safety system with a leaner budget."
Source: By Kristin Longley - Flint Journal
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