Cincinnati Firefighters facing steep layoffs

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email|Facebook

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Steep budget cuts are being proposed for the city of Cincinnati, which could trigger massive layoffs among our police, fire and sanitation workers.

But there may be some confusion about how the streetcar project figures into all this.

It's frustrating for firefighters and other city workers who may be looking at getting laid-off just in time for Christmas. And especially firefighters who are being told to cut $11 million out of the department's budget, when each week their union rep said, millions are being thrown at streetcars.

"Last week they were spending the $20 million from the casino money that we don't even have yet, and a large portion of that goes to the streetcars," said a frustrated Union local President, Marc Monahan. Ninety or more people could be laid-off by December and no money in sight.

"I think we're already in trouble," said councilwoman Laure Quinlivan. "You know, we're not in December, we already know we have a $50 million budget deficit and the City needs to do this year, the hard things, that is has avoided doing for the last couple of years."

Quinlivan said we cannot use streetcar money, because those funds come from the capital budget.

"It has to be spent on capital projects like roads and bridges and streetcars," Quinlivan said. "You can't take money from the capital budget and spend it on police and fire. it's not allowed."

"Although that's capital money," Council member Charlie Winburn said. "If we could get rid of the street car, I'd love to get rid of that now and appeal to the Ohio General Assembly, to see if we could pass a law to use capital money to help us balance our budget."

Over the last year and a half the fire department has already cut about 5 million through retirements and are working with fewer firefighters.

"So now when we don't have enough staffing," Monahan said. "Instead of calling in people on overtime, we just close down a fire company."

Right now, on average he said the City closes two companies a day.

"They'll leave one of the fire trucks with nobody on it and they'll send those people wherever they're needed for the day," Monahan said.

Pending layoffs could force the City to close 25-percent or more of the fire companies every day.

"There's going to be big gaps within the service area," Monahan said. "Response times are going to really increase and it is going to be a danger, not only to the citizens, but also to the firefighters."

"We've had two major fires along the streetcar route," Monahan said. "We close companies down there, who's going to put economic development into that streetcar route if you don't have fire protection?"

"We have a fire department that responds to every 911 call with a fire truck and that's not very efficient," Quinlivan said. "And that's really not necessary because most of the runs are for ambulances, so we need to change the way we do business to save money."

All the City Manager's office could unofficially say was, despite all the numbers being thrown around right now, the budget is still under development.

Every Wednesday now through December, Quinlivan said Council meets with the finance committee, every department and every department head at 10-30am, in an open hearing, so the public can attend, to talk about the budget.

There is clearly a great deal of work to be done on everybody's part, before anyone is looking at pink slips.

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