Thursday, July 15th, 2010
By Betty Lawrence
Layoffs possible for Celina fire, police personnel
  CELINA - Police Chief Dave Slusser says he is still working on a plan to cut his budget without laying off personnel, but if he doesn't come up with the numbers three full-time patrolmen, two full-time dispatchers and two part-time dispatchers will be laid off.
City administration has asked the police department to trim $90,000 from its budget by January. The city fire department also was told to trim $80,000 and tentative plans have been made to lay off three firemen/paramedics and eight auxiliary firemen.
The city is facing a $1,056,594 projected deficit in its general fund next year, and city officials have gone to various departments asking them to cut operating expenses. Two full-time positions were eliminated in the recreation department in May.
Layoff notices for the police and fire personnel go out today. Layoffs in both departments are seniority driven, the chiefs said.
The notices went out today because the respective unions require a 15-day notice before the layoffs begin, which would be Aug. 1. The unions must approve the cuts.
"We're working on a cost-savings package to alleviate hard-time layoffs," Slusser said. "In the meantime, we have to have a plan in place if the layoffs happen."
Slusser has served as chief since 1991. He said the layoffs, which would be at least until the end of the year, are a first for his department.
"It's been difficult, but this is just the tip of the iceberg," Slusser said. "We're looking at department budget cuts of around $340,000 if the income tax levy doesn't pass in November."
The police department's budget is approximately $1.3 million.
Fire chief Doug Wolters said his department would face cuts of $290,000 if the levy fails. His department has a budget of about $1.5 million.
City council members will have final reading Monday of legislation placing an income tax increase of 0.5 percent on the November election ballot. If the levy passes, city income tax would increase to 1.5 percent, effective Jan. 2, for seven years. It would generate an additional $1.5 million a year for the city's general fund.
"Quite simply, the city needs more funding," Slusser said.
Both police and fire departments are funded through the city's general fund.
Slusser said city administration would support alternative solutions to laying off, but to meet specified timeframes, notices were to be delivered today. Any alternative package would have to be approved by August.
The police department employs 16 officers, six full-time dispatchers, two part-time dispatchers and a student intern in the summer. The intern already has been let go.
According to Slusser, the manpower loss could affect the department's participation in the Grand Lake Drug Task Force. Also affected by the layoff would be record checks, traffic crash reports and other clerical information that would be reviewed and processed weekly instead of daily, he said.
Earlier plans by city officials to eliminate the police department dispatchers have been dropped, he said.
If layoffs occur, Wolters said his department would receive assistance with fire runs from neighboring departments when needed and there would be a reduction (from three to two) in personnel responding to vehicle accidents. If it is warranted, extra staff would still respond, he added.
"We'll also have to cut out educational services, such as fire prevention talks to classrooms, fire inspections," Wolters said, adding his department is working on keeping its auxiliary members. "This (layoff) is all economy-driven."
Earlier this year, city council diverted $300,000 from the fire department, which was to go toward a new fire truck, to the city's general fund.
"We're going to need about $1.8 million (at today's cost) by 2015 to replace at least four vehicles," Wolters said.
The department's only aerial fire truck is a 1977 model.
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