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Published: Tuesday, 4/6/2010

Monroe may cut 20 jobs, shut fire station


MONROE - The budget given a first reading Monday night by Monroe City Council is predicated on eliminating 20 jobs and closing the fire station on the city's west side.

With property-tax revenue expected to be down about $850,000, Mayor Robert Clark said the city must make cuts to balance the 2010-11 fiscal year budget before April 30.

Twenty positions would be eliminated through a combination of layoffs and leaving vacancies unfilled.

"It is not that we want to do this, but this is what we have to do to have a balanced budget. We cannot spend revenue that is not there," Mr. Clark said.

A public hearing on the proposed budget is to be held at council's April 19 meeting. The $16.8 million budget, which is about 8 percent less than this year's spending plan, follows about $1.1 million in cuts and the elimination of about 25 jobs a year ago.

The reductions that City Manager George Brown proposed in the budget he presented to council last week include cutting staffing in the city fire department to 19 firefighters from 27 and cutting the police force to 35 officers from 39.

The staffing cuts to the fire and police departments would result in the closing of the West Elm Avenue fire station, eliminating advanced life support and ambulance transportation, and canceling a federal grant to pay salaries of three police officers.

Mayor Clark said he is optimistic that some of the job cuts can be saved by restructuring departments and gaining concessions from unions. "We hope that we can reduce the impact and eliminate less than 20 positions," he said.

He said a proposal is being put together to reorganize the police department to eliminate some command-officer positions to keep police on the street and retain the two officers whose salaries are funded by the federal law enforcement grant.

The labor agreement with the firefighters' union is to expire July 1. The other contracts have one more year left and employees in the groups, including police, are scheduled to receive 2 percent raises on July 1.

Bryan Gee, president of the 27-member Monroe Patrolman's Association, said officers have been without pay increases since 2007. He said the city has cut nine positions from his union's ranks since June, 2008.

"We are trying to work with the city. It is not like they are hiding money. It is a matter of priorities," Mr. Gee said. "The city will ultimately decide what level of police services they want in the community."

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