Major cuts no longer expected for public safety and parks

Monday night the City Council passed a tax package that’s expected to generate more than $7 million dollars. In doing so, they may have saved the police, fire, and parks departments from deep cuts.

The Fire Department was facing the possibility of losing at least 12 firefighters, but Fire Chief Gary Olson tells us that’s no longer the case.

“Based upon the City Council’s actions, it is anticipated that severe cuts will not occur.  I know there are additional reviews and legal corrections to be discussed; however, I am optimistic and look ahead to only minor changes in the Fire Department’s level of service,” he said.

The same is true for the Police Department, which could have lost 25 officers.

“What the council has recommended thus far is only laying off nine of the 25 officers, those nine positions are vacant at this time, two of the 10 civilians and all eight of the part-time people.” Deputy Chief Karen Manser said.

The new revenue also means some popular Parks and Rec programs will be spared.

Director Lynn Sordel says the council’s budget task group made some specific buyback recommendations. “We have reviewed them and they are pretty close to the things we believe are important to the community. They include our teen program, pre-school, parks planning, senior services, adult softball, arts programming and park maintenance,” he said. “We have been able to further reduce expenses to some of these programs and add some more revenues to offset some of the costs.”

Sordel also said five of his employees have voluntarily reduced their hours to keep their programs going avoid layoffs.

“Most are reducing their hours to 30 hours per week, while another is going to 25 hours. I am very proud of our hard work and the fact we have reduced costs and have added revenues in an effort to retain as many of our core services as possible,” he said. “I think it is very important for our citizens to know some of the sacrifices we are making.”

We should know more as the budget talks continue throughout December.

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