TURLOCK, Calif. — The City of Turlock is considering making some major cuts across the board as they struggle to balance a challenging budget. Firefighters are concerned this could impact some of their jobs, and close one of their four fire stations.
"Firefighters here in Turlock feel unsupported," Paul Arai, a Turlock firefighter and President of the Turlock Firefighters, Local #2434 union said. "If any more cuts were to happen, it will affect staffing and the level of service we give the city."
City officials say, despite those concerns, they've been asked to come up with a budget that has no deficit, while their reserve fund is dwindling to $2.4 million by the end of June.
"Within the last couple of years, the former city council made a series of very expensive spending decisions that didn't have the revenues necessary to back them up," Bob Lawton, the City Manager of Turlock said. "Basically, they may not have put our groceries on the credit card, but they paid for them with the savings account."
In order to fix it, Lawton says he's proposing cuts to every department, including fire.
Here are a few of the proposed cuts:
- Three vacant firefighter positions will be defunded, including the training chief who leaves July 1.
- They're eliminating $400,000 in fire department overtime and $300,000 in equipment purchases.
- They plan to "brown out" one out of their four fire stations on a rolling basis, depending on city needs.
"It will happen dynamically. We'll be able to move people to where they're most likely to be needed. It's not a matter of closing the doors on a firehouse and abandoning it," Lawton said.
But firefighters say this will increase response times.
"If you go down a fire station, for any period of time, you're going to have a longer response time. There's no way around it," Chief Robert Talloni of the Turlock Fire Department said.
"It's not the optimum outcome, but we balance the public safety needs of the city with our ability to pay for what we'd like to provide," Lawton said.
Longtime firefighters like union President Paul Arai say that's not good enough.
"A lot of this kind of comes down to the council's direction on what they feel is important, what they feel their priorities are, and I believe this proposal speaks volumes on what their priorities are, and so to us, we feel unsupported, we feel unappreciated," Arai said.
Chief Talloni says no matter what happens, he will make it work.
"We make it work, we want you to call us, we don't want this to be in any way a thought that we're not going to call neighborhood services because they don't have enough personnel, we want your phone call, we are here to save your life," he said.
The City Manager's budget is being proposed at Tuesday night's meeting.
They are expected to take public comment and vote on this later this month, it would take effect July 1, 2019.
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