Union representatives from the and rallied outside on Tuesday, criticizing a set of as an unnecessary action based on anticipated overtime costs.
Under the $83,092,657 city and school budget proposed for the 2013 fiscal year, the fire department proposed 25 layoffs while leaving an additional five positions vacant. The police department proposed the termination of 10 officers while leaving 11 positions vacant.
Mayor Daryl Finizio requested $12,280,651 for the police department and $8,834,931 for the fire department. The Finance Committee , respectively, and the departments were also included in an additional two percent cut across the board approved by the City Council.
The employees who may be laid off received their layoff notices from Finizio’s office in the mail over the weekend. These were set to go into effect on June 30, the end of the current fiscal year.
Editor’s note: at the City Council’s vote on the third reading of the budget, councilors voted to transfer funds to the fire and police departments in order to provide funding to avoid layoffs.
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Rocco Basilica, president of the New London Fire Fighters Local 1522, said he believes the department is adequately funded under the City Council appropriation to maintain staffing levels without layoffs. He compared the department’s staffing level and response time to neighboring communities.
“That staffing is what saves lives,” said Basilica.
Jonathan Paige, vice president of the firefighters’ union, said the most experienced firefighter who would be laid off has been with the department for 14 years. He said reducing the size of the department would have a detrimental effect on public safety.
“I’m completely shocked,” said Paige. “This money is in the budget. And I’m still baffled as to the reason for these cuts.”
Chuck Flynn, a member of the New London Police Union AFSCME Local 724 executive board, said the vacancies and layoffs would all affect the patrol division. He also said the calculated layoffs were based on estimates of what the overtime levels will be.
“We don’t believe that the finances are as bad as they’re being projected…This is an argument over future overtime,” said Flynn.
Darrin O’Mara, a member of the executive board of the police union, said six other departments offered to take in any fired officers in lateral transfers. O’Mara said that few officers returned after a round of layoffs in the early 90s, and that layoffs result in the department having to pay for the training and hiring of new officers in the future.
“It’s disappointing that the city is taking this tactic or this approach,” said O’Mara. “I feel you’re using leverage, and putting 10 officers’ jobs at risk when the City Council says there’s money in the budget.”
David McElroy, vice president of the police union, said he thinks part of the reason for projected high overtime costs is the result of the and . He said he believes the money is available for both the deputy chief as well as the current staffing levels.
“We just want the public to be aware that the decision to possibly lay off these 10 officers is really going to hamper public safety,” he said.
Michael Lax, a police officer who has been on the force since February of 2011, said he was shocked to receive a layoff notice. Lax said the department is already below its ideal staffing level with the vacancies.
“The City Council’s on our side. Obviously the union’s on our side,” said Lax. “I hope the city can talk to the union and get some agreements with the mayor.”
Samul said the department has been referring to the day Finizio announced the layoffs as “Black Thursday.”
“There’s never, ever in over 20 years been layoffs in the New London Fire Department,” said Samul. “That’s very concerning to us.”
Several members of the fire department who would be have been terminated if the layoffs were approved appealed to the City Council at the start of their meeting. Vernon Skau, a fire inspector, said his termination would have an effect on building inspections and obtaining grants.
“There is not one single person in this 25 that wants to work anywhere but New London,” said Skau.
Kevin Campbell questioned why he and other firefighters would receive pink slips when the city has approved deputy chiefs’ positions in each department.
“To say I feel betrayed is an understatement,” he said.
Jack Tackling, who said he would be the last firefighter laid off if the reductions were approved, said he did not believe the department should be appealing for their jobs.
“It shouldn’t happen,” said Tackling. “Someone’s going to die. Someone’s going to get hurt, all right? Live on that.”