Mayor Daryl Finizio said this afternoon that he hopes negotiations with the and unions will “minimize or possibly eliminate the need for layoffs.”
Finizio held the press conference one day after announcing that off as a result of budget constraints. The city will also keep 11 police positions and five fire positions vacant. There are currently 96 police officers in New London and 80 fire personnel. All but two of the layoffs in the fire department will affect the firefighting division, which has 56 members.
Personnel Coordinator Bernadette Welch said the layoffs are estimated to save the city $545,000 in the fire department and $580,000 in the police department.
“This is the absolute last thing that we want to do, but we have to accept the reality and so do the unions,” said Finizio.
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Finizio said that he was “nearly laughed off the stage” with his , which represented a 20 percent budget increase, but said this budget was what department heads said was needed to maintain the current level of services in New London. He said the department heads have been working to make reductions to the , but also have to abide by contractual obligations.
“I can’t tell you what specific effect it will have, but it will have an effect on services,” said Fire Chief Ron Samul.
Samul said the staffing levels per shift will remain the same, and response time should not be affected. Welch said the high number of layoffs in the fire department is needed because the savings come only from eliminating benefits packages; there is no savings in salaries, as these would cover overtime costs of firefighters working extra time to maintain staffing levels.
Chief Administrative Officer Jane Glover will be negotiating with both departments’ unions. She said these discussions have already started, and did not comment on details but said that the unions are proposing ideas on possible cost savings.
“This is not a tactic. This is reality,” said Glover. “Both unions were apprised before the mayor went public.”
Finizio said one possibility is a deferred benefit pension plan. He said this will allow some older members of the department to retire and can preserve the jobs of younger staffers.
Police Chief Margaret Ackley said she considers that members of the department are stepping up to meet the challenge presented by the budget and offer potential solutions.
“I haven’t given up hope,” she said.
Peter Reichard, whom Finizio for the department, is scheduled to begin work on Monday with a $100,500 salary and $10,000 in benefits. Finizio said he made this decision as part of a strategy to balance staff and management in the departments.
“The assessment, and I take responsibility for it, is we can’t cripple management,” he said.
Finizio also said the will be preserved despite the budget cuts. He formerly posited that the department could save costs by elimination of the program, but promised that it would remain in place after members of the department and public advocated it.