Syracuse Common Council restores fire department cuts, but that may not last

May 8, 2013

The pleas of Syracuse firefighters pleas were answered by the city's common councilors as they voted to restore cuts to the fire department.   But, the vote by the council to shift money in the mayor's proposed budget, doesn't mean the Syracuse Fire Department will get that money.

There was a 30-second standing ovation for Syracuse city lawmakers Wednesday afternoon after they unanimously approved a budget amendment that restores firefighter overtime costs that had been cut out of the Mayor Stephanie Minor's proposed budget.  It's been an emotional issue for some lawmakers, like Lance Denno, who is a retired firefighter.

"When my partner and I were trapped in a 1995 building collapse, our rescue was accomplished by 12 firefighters already on the scene," said Denno. "Since that time, the fire department's on-duty strength has already been cut  from 79 to 69, and under this proposed plan would be cut to 65.  Where are my rescuers now?"

Beyond the emotions, though, where did lawmakers get the money, in the midst of continuing fiscal stress on city coffers?  Finance Committee Chairwoman Kathleen Joy says their budget amendments:

"Decreased some spending, and anticipated increase in revenues. So we put them all together and came up with all of it matches, so we have a balanced budget," said Joy.

But all this will go for naught, as Miner ultimately has control over spending, and she says she won't spend any extra money on the fire department.

"We can't afford more overtime, so I will not will be spending additional money to keep overtime segments for the fire department," said Miner. "Given the fiscal challenges that we have and where we are in terms of a fiscal crisis, and given that we have been extraordinary good fiscal stewards the four years we've been in office, I've decided not to spend money on things that maybe  we want, but not what we need."    

The fire eepartment cutbacks save $1.6 million in spending. The fire department will move ahead in the coming months, with a reconfiguration that will merge two stations and reduce the number of firefighters to 65. Miner says she's comfortable that this new plan will keep residents of the city of Syracuse safe.

The Fire Department cutbacks save 1.6 Million dollars in spending.  In the coming months, the city will reconfigure the department, merging two stations and reducing the Fire Department staff by four firefighters.