WESTPORT, MO (KCTV) - The Union for the Kansas City Fire Department says they are already short 60 firefighters. Cutting 4.5% of the department budget would mean close to $9 million. That would have dangerous impacts on public safety.
“I believe that fire department cuts and public safety cuts should be the last to be made,” to International Association of Firefighters local 42 President Tim Dupin said.
Dupin says the cuts the department is being asked to consider would mean laying off at least 142 firefighters and closing three to seven fire stations.
“The mission of the fire department is to be anywhere within four to six minutes. That would definitely slow that response. We believe we are understaffed now. We have a shortage of 60 firefighters right now and any further cuts would be detrimental to the mission of the department,” Dupin said.
Kansas City voters approved a sales tax increase for the fire department in June.
Dupin says that revenue is needed for critical purchases like new ambulances, breathing apparatuses for firefighters and renovations at fire stations. It will not offset a $9 million cut.
“We are very disappointed and believe it’s irresponsible to cut public safety during this time. Especially during a pandemic and periods of civil unrest,” Dupin said.
City spokesperson Chris Hernandez says there’s no need to panic about the 4.5% budget cut because it’s not official yet.
“That is simply a starting point for the discussion. Because there are still a lot of variables out there that we haven’t put into the formula yet,” KCMO Communications Director Chris Hernandez said.
Hernandez couldn’t say just how much revenue the city has lost during the pandemic, yet they’re waiting on final sales tax numbers from the state.
Five streams of revenue make up the city’s general fund. The coronavirus shutdown has impacted at least three of them. Sales and tourism taxes dramatically.
The earnings tax is also down, but not as much as expected.
The city will also be able to use money from their rainy-day fund which has about two months of operating expenses.
“We have the strongest reserve fund in the cities history right now. And that’s because we spent the last decade making sure we were building that back up after the last recession,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez says every city department suffered more than 20% budget cuts in the last recession except for public safety.
That may not be the case in this crisis.
75% of the city’s general fund goes to public safety. The city says they need to save $50 to $60 million this year.
The cities general fund is approximately $550 million.
We’ll learn more about what that could mean for all city services next Wednesday at the finance committee meeting.