We must ask "WHY?"

We must ask "WHY?"



Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A letter from the Fire Dept Union President

Good morning,

I am writing today because recent quotes from the administration are basically laying the whole cost of $2,000,000 budget shortfall on the WBFD.

"Police, public works and other departments also would be affected as the city struggles to make up for an estimated $2 million revenue shortfall this year and reduce the 31 percent property tax increase proposed in the mayor’s $45.8 million balanced budget for 2013."

Leighton said he is “always looking to increase revenue for the city.” He said there are “15 to 20 firefighters worried about their jobs,”

Twenty firefighters amount to over $1.7 million of the $2 million dollar budget deficit.

We have two main questions. The first one, that we have been asking for weeks is, what is the true number the city is looking to layoff? The second is has anyone truly looked into the fire budget as a whole?

The 2013 budget as presented has some major flaws in the public safety portion of the fire budget. Currently the city has budgeted for 61 firefighters for fire suppression, 8 firefighters for uniformed ambulance service, and 3 for administration which includes the fire inspector, training officer, and Chief of the department.

That amounts to a budget that reflects 72 firefighters on the WBFD, which is incorrect. Currently we are down to 64 firefighters. Logic would dictate that if you remove the extra 8 firefighters from the budget, that would take care of $700,000 of the 2013 budget shortfall.

Another question that we are inquiring about is $456,414 for the cities contribution into the new fire pension. In past audits, since our pension was solvent , the cities' contribution to the new fire pension was $0, and state money was the only monies added to our plan. Currently we do not have the 2011-2012 audit to check on contributions, but it should be due out shortly.

Just a note, the pension numbers and the three administrative firefighters positions cannot be found online. There is a page missing between pages 36 and 37 which details the cost of fire administration total on page 37.

Just to summarize, if the manning numbers are reworked and it is found the cities MMO for the new fire pension is still at $0, you can close more than half of the budget deficit without laying off a single firefighter from our already depleted force.

Throughout the years, we the Wilkes-Barre City Firefighters have always stepped up to help out the city in time of need, and now we are reduced by 24 firefighters ,and are threatened with the loss of 20 more.

At this moment, we are weighing our options as to how to keep the minute number of 64 on the job, when as all the studies show we should be at 88 firefighters at a minimum.

Just yesterday both of our Engine companies and both ambulances were tied up on calls when a dispatch came in for a car fire. An engine company pulled out of an operation to respond to the car fire but it took precious time. I shudder to think what the outcome would have been if it had been a structure fire.

At this time I am asking the administration and city council to look into the other city department budgets and maybe some other savings can be found.

Mike Bilski
President IAFF L-104

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