Covington commissioners consider budget cut recommendations

Covington commissioners consider budget cut recommendations

COVINGTON, KY (FOX19) - Covington residents had an opportunity on Tuesday night to voice their opinions on city budget cut recommendations.

Commissioners have already approved the city's 2013 operating budget with $1.5 million in cuts, but an independent study says the city needs to reduce its cost at least twice that amount.

Cincinnati-based consulting firm Marking Partners is advising Covington city leaders to make changes to its police and fire departments in order to reduce costs.

The Covington police department is considering doing its part by allowing people to file police reports over the phone for some minor crimes and by having department workers, other than officers, go out and take reports for less serious crimes. There is also a possibility of officer layoffs.

"What you are about to do is going to effect human lives," said Covington resident Jerry Avery. "You have to consider each and every decision you make, the impact that it has on everyone that lives in this city."

Former volunteer firefighter Bill Wells also spoke before the commissioners and recalled one phone call he received from a woman when there was talk of downsizing the department in the past.

"She told me she was afraid to go to sleep because her house may catch on fire and the firefighters may not rescue her," said Wells.

Paying higher taxes is never a popular option but one person asked the commissioners to give her a number.

"To me as a citizen, that's important," said Covington resident Terry Wood.  "I would like to know how much more I would need to commit in order for it to stay the same."

On the other side of the issue are Covington city leaders who are just trying carry out their fiscal responsibilities.

"If we do nothing, we've projected a deficit as much as $20 million in the next five years so, we have to do something," said Mayor Chuck Scheper.

Both the police and fire departments are asked to tighten their belts by a half million dollars.

"There are some things that we can do without jeopardizing the service that we are providing the citizens," said Covington Fire Chief Chuck Norris.

Covington has engaged in brownouts of its engine companies since last October.

"Any time that you reduce a company, you're reducing a level of service that you provide. Without the men and women of the Covington fire department working hard every day, we wouldn't be able to do that," said Norris.

The study by the consulting firm is not binding but does provide the city of Covington with a blue print to ward off a budget deficit. "It's an opportunity to step back and look with a fresh lens so to speak as to how we do business," said Scheper.

Covington commission has scheduled a public input forum on possible changes to it code enforcement department on Aug. 9 at city hall.

Copyright 2012 WXIX. All rights reserved.