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Published: Friday, 7/23/2004

City unions talk against cuts, layoffs

The common ground appeared to be concerns about a threatened $14 million deficit in the 2005 budget and possible layoffs.

Gregg Harris, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, said the administration has ordered cuts of $300,000 in overtime for this year, which he said will further stress officers on the street.

Mr. Harris said the 690 sworn officers is an inadequate number, and is about 50 officers short of the number 10 years ago. However, counting civilian workers, total police department staffing is up.

"We absolutely need more policemen in this town," Mr. Harris said.

The city's police, fire, and solid waste departments have been left relatively unscathed by the job eliminations and layoffs from general fund operations of the last three years.

However, there is growing concern that if city revenues fail to rebound this year, it will be impossible to avoid additional layoffs in 2005.

Don Czerniak, president of Local 7 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, said he has heard threats of 120 or more layoffs.

Mr. Czerniak and others said the union presidents want a seat on the city's budget task force, which in the past has been composed of the mayor's staff, the finance department, the city auditor, and members of city council.

"We don't think we're getting the say we need on the budget," Mr. Czerniak said.

Jim Martin, president of Toledo Firefighters Local 92, said the fire department had to cut its budget by $400,000.

At the same time, he accused the administration of pursuing disciplinary actions that have resulted in "an extraordinarily large number of grievances" that take time and money to resolve.

Alan Cox, president of AFSCME Local 2058, said "frivolous" disciplinary actions backed by Mayor Ford are unfair to his members and cost money to arbitrate. "There doesn't seem to be the understanding or willingness to have sound labor-management relations," Mr. Cox said.

Mary Chris Skeldon, the mayor's public information officer, issued a statement emphasizing Mr. Ford's commitment to public safety.

"With few exceptions we have never had as many officers on the street as we have this year," she said. The statement said police response times recently improved.

The statement acknowledged that the city faces difficult financial issues, and denied that the city had any more employee grievances than usual.

It did not respond to Mr. Czerniak's request for a seat in the budget task force.

Also participating in the session at the TPPA hall, 1947 Franklin Ave., was Teamsters Local 20. Together, the five unions represent about 2,550 city employees.

Mayor Ford has warned that the city may have to cut $14 million worth of general fund services to balance the 2005 budget. This year's general fund is $231 million.

The general fund pays for police, fire, trash collection, parks and recreation, city council, the mayor's office, and administrative functions.



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