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Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Chiefs submit cost-saving proposals

Layoffs avoidable if mayor OKs plans

By William Kincaid
CELINA - Swinging layoffs, furloughs and eliminating travel and training expenditures are included in the cost-cutting proposals the city's police and fire departments submitted to mayor Sharon LaRue this week to reduce the impact of planned layoffs.
Layoff notices were sent to five police personnel and 11 fire personnel but could be rescinded between now and Aug. 1 if the departments come up with a better solution to save money, according to auditor Emily Stewart.
The proposals are being reviewed by the city administration, and LaRue may decide whether to accept or deny them - depending on their feasibility - late this afternoon after meeting with representatives of both departments.
"The auditor is going over them to make sure the numbers are correct," LaRue said. "Yes, they do seem plausible."
The city is facing a $1,056,594 projected deficit next year in its general fund, which led city administrators about two weeks ago to request a reduction of $90,000 from the police budget and $80,000 from the fire budget.
Three police officers and two dispatchers, as well as three firemen/paramedics and all eight auxiliary firemen face layoffs, according to police chief Dave Slusser and fire chief Doug Wolters.
Stewart provided the newspaper with versions of the cost-reduction proposals.
The police department's plan includes swinging layoffs, with several officers taking 28 days off one at a time instead of five workers being laid off for five months.
The plan would reduce the budget by $30,000 and provide more consistent services to the city, according to Slusser.
Among other things, the proposal also calls for furlough days and a one time-transfer of $22,000 from the department's enforcement funds.
However, Stewart told the newspaper she did not know for sure if the enforcement funds - derived from court fees and used for education and drug enforcement - could be transferred to the general fund.
Also, she said the police department's plan is not specific. For instance, it does not state which officers would take the swinging layoffs and furlough days.
All of the police department employees support the plan, according to Slusser.
The fire department's plan includes reducing personnel manning on call backs from four to three people and eliminating cleaning services; training and travel funds; health and fitness funds; and uniform allowance.
It also calls for furloughs.
Council members this week approved placing an income tax increase on the November election ballot. If it is approved by voters, the city income tax would increase from 1 percent to 1.5 percent effective Jan. 1, 2011, for a period of seven years. It's estimated to generate an additional $1.5 million a year.
Slusser has said his department is facing $340,000 in cuts if the levy fails.
The fire department is facing cuts of $290,000 if the levy fails, according to Wolters.
Slusser has served as chief since 1991. He has said the layoffs, which would be at least until the end of the year, are a first for his department.
Both departments are funded through the city's general fund.
The police department's budget is approximately $1.3 million and the fire department has a budget of about $1.5 million.
Earlier plans by city officials to eliminate the police department dispatchers have been dropped.
Additional online story on this date
GRAND LAKE - 20,600 beef and dairy cattle.
80,000 hogs.
168,000 turkeys.
3.75 million chickens.
629,504 tons of manure each year.
That's the Grand Lake Watershed. [More]
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