This year's Toledo firefighter training class, expected to begin in mid-June, will have five fewer members.
The budget city council adopted Tuesday included a $158,000 savings from reducing the number in the class from 25 to 20, and delaying its start date from May to June.
Fire Chief Mike Bell approached the finance department about the reduction when he said it became clear his department was not going to have the 20 retirements he initially predicted. Only 15 now are expected this year, he said. “We'll still have 525 and that's what we're authorized to have,” the chief said.
The training class normally begins in May or June. To start the class in May, Chief Bell said he would have had to put staff on overtime to conduct the necessary background checks. Because the number of retirements was down, the chief said he determined the overtime was not necessary to get the class going in May.
Tom Dugan, president of Toledo Firefighters Local 92, said he was not happy about the decreased class size. “I wish they wouldn't. We need the personnel,” he said.
Mr. Dugan said 48 firefighters are eligible to retire. “You can say how many you think might retire, but what happens if 10 walk in next week [and announce their retirements]?” he said. “They can walk in and go.”
The chief said he typically knows about retirements 30 days before they happen. Mr. Dugan, however, contended that most staff members do give advanced notice, and most who retire leave during the first half of the year because it is more beneficial to them financially.
The firefighters' contract calls for a minimum of 103 firefighters to be working every day. Chief Bell said current staffing levels average between 103 and 111.
Mr. Dugan said Local 92 believes more is always better.
Councilman Wilma Brown, who is head of council's public safety committee, said she did not have a problem with the class size being decreased. “With him not having as many retirements, it's OK. And they can always go back in and add to it if necessary,” Ms. Brown said. “So that's OK with me. If there is a crisis, we can add to it. But right now he's running way ahead.”