Layoffs in Ann Arbor Fire Department could come early next year because of state revenue cuts
Updated On: Jun 13, 2009

Layoffs in Ann Arbor Fire Department could come early next year because of state revenue cuts

by Judy McGovern | The Ann Arbor News
Tuesday May 12, 2009, 12:26 AM

Ann Arbor firefighters show off their equipment during an open house last year.

A reduction in state revenue could prompt Ann Arbor to lay off firefighters early next year.

City Administrator Roger Fraser Monday recommended that City Council members wait until January to see whether they need to make the cut to offset the $257,281 reduction in state revenue announced last week.

Fraser's two-year budget plan had called for eliminating 14 positions in the fire department in fiscal year 2010-11. If the move needs to be made earlier, Fraser said he'd recommend laying off nine firefighters, taking one truck out of service.

"Our approach in the coming year is to be extremely frugal," he said.

The city will operate with a near hiring freeze, filling only the most critical positions, Fraser said.

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At a glance

• The City Council is expected to approve a budget Monday, May 18.

• The city of Ann Arbor's fiscal year runs July 1 to June 30.

• The proposed budgets for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 fiscal years call for reducing spending to $85 million and $82 million, respectively, to pull spending back in line with shrinking tax revenue.

• Revenue from real estate taxes is expected to shrink 1.2 percent in fiscal year 2009-10 and 5.2 percent in 2010-11.

• A detailed budget proposal is available on the city's Web site. Scroll down to the "proposed budget book" or follow this link, but be warned - it's a big PDF.


Although the fire department layoffs proposed for 2010-11 had drawn little public comment from City Council members, several expressed concern about the potentially accelerated schedule Monday.


Council Member Stephen Rapundalo and Mayor John Hieftje both asked for information about how the reductions would affect response time and public safety. Hieftje pressed for identifying another option.

In fact, other initiatives could make a difference.

Ann Arbor continues to talk with neighboring communities about a regional approach to fire services. Those talks could yield results that would influence the budget by year's end, Fraser said.

It's also possible than more city police officers than expected will take an early-retirement offer, he said. That would reduce costs. Some 16 to 18 officers are eligible, but fewer were expected to leave the department.

Other changes in the police department occupied a good deal of the council's time Monday.

Downtown beat cops

Police Chief Barnett Jones fielded questions about the elimination of downtown beat cops and half a dozen community-standards officers, responsible for parking and other code enforcement.

"We got spoiled but times have changed," Jones said of the once 190-member department that allowed dedicated downtown officers. The police department now has 148 sworn officers.

"The changes we're making let us keep our patrol exactly as it is. Those are the priorities: patrol, dispatch and detectives," he said. "What I need to do is keep our level of strength up on the street and in investigation."

While the arrangement downtown will be different, there should be no net loss of police presence, Jones said. "Instead of six officers the downtown business people will see many others."

All patrol officers are to spend on hour out of their cars on foot, or on a bike, every shift, he said. Many of those hours will be spent in the downtown.

Parking revenue

In addition, patrol officers will write more tickets for parking violations.

Numerous council members wondered whether the sworn officers would issue as many citations as the civilian community-standards officers. The budget anticipates $2.1 million in revenue, unchanged from this year.

Jones assured city officials that the patrol officers would do the work.

Council members also appeared skeptical about a still-evolving plan to install parking meters that would be operated outside the Downtown Development Authority parking system.

Maps of the proposed new metered streets have not been available to the News or, as of Monday, to City Council members. A presentation Monday showed locations streets near the University of Michigan hospitals as well as west of downtown around YMCA and north of downtown around Depot Street.

The DDA's plan has been to steer drivers into parking structures in town or into park-and-ride lots outside the central business district, said Council Member Sandi Smith. The proposed new on-street meters seem at odds with that strategy, she said.

Council Member Carsten Hohnke noted that the targeted areas are in "near downtown" neighborhoods. "Meters suggest commercial activity nearby. We want to guard against commercial spillover."

City staffers suggested the meters could provide relief for neighborhoods clogged by commuters parking. But the goal is generating new revenue - roughly $350,000 a year. And whatever their reservations, no council members called for abandoning the idea.

Judy McGovern can be reached at 734-994-6863 or jmcgovern@annarbornews.com.

Contact Info
Ann Arbor Firefighters Local 693

Ann Arbor, MI 48104

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