Qualls, Seelbach present budget plan for less layoffs

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The first of three public hearings was held Thursday evening on Cincinnati's budget.

The budget includes layoffs to several city workers, including police officers and firefighters. Mayor Mark Mallory submitted his changes to the city manager's budget on Wednesday.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Council member Chris Seelbach have co-sponsored a motion that would eliminate all firefighter layoffs and reduce police layoffs to 25 by restoring 24 police officer positions in the fiscal year 2014 budget. The motion was introduced at Thursday's meeting.

The motion would make the following changes to the budget proposed by the manager, resulting in a savings of $607,000:

  • Double the cost savings (furlough) days for supervisory and leadership personnel from five to ten, for a savings of $250,000;
  • Ask all members of council to take the equivalent of ten cost savings days through payroll deductions for a savings of $22,700;
  • Reduce council office budgets for a total  of $18,000;
  • Reduce the Clerk of Council's budget by $46,000;
  • Merge the departments of Community Development and Economic Development, for a savings of $171,000 ;
  • A reduction of $100,000 in the account for firefighter's protective gear.

Dozens of speakers joined the city's Budget and Finance Committee at the Duke Energy Center, armed with some strong words.

"When a citizen is in trouble and calls 911, they expect a fast and professional response.  Layoffs of police officers and firefighters endanger that expectation," said Jay McDonald, president of the state's Fraternal Order of Police.

Cincinnati's FOP president, Kathy Harrell, spoke to the Budget and Finance Committee as well.  She told FOX19 that until a budget is voted on, things are still uncertain.

"We're really, really hopeful that they'll find additional cuts.  But until May the 31st, we're not really sure what our layoff number is.  We need 5 council members to agree on these cuts, and they're very controversial cuts," Harrell told FOX19.

Local 48 Union president Matt Alter is happy council members may have found a way to save all firefighter jobs, but he echoed that uncertainty as well.

"Until the ink is dry on the budget documents, we don't know.  There's a lot of tough cuts in this budget, and the number could go back up," said Alter.

One of those controversial cuts is cutting funds for the city's park system.  One woman who spoke is planning her wedding in one of them, and is thinking for the future.

"I can tell you right now that I have no interest in my kids growing up in a concrete jungle overgrown with weeds and neglect."

Seelbach told FOX19 he's not sure if it is realistic that there would be zero layoffs without some other source of income.  But, he said they are still working.

Additional public hearings are scheduled for Monday, May 20 and at the College Hill Recreation Center and Wednesday, May 22 at the Madisonville Recreation Center.

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