Saginaw City Council discusses budget, public safety - WNEM TV 5

Saginaw City Council discusses budget, public safety

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The city of Saginaw is dealing with a $3.5 million budget deficit, and city leaders are working to balance the budget. One of the main targets focuses in on police and fire services, which makes up two-thirds of the general budget.

That's what was discussed Monday night.

The city's financial future is looking pretty bleak, as city leaders say if drastic measures aren't taken now, by 2018, the city would be more than $21 million in debt.

Of course, city leaders want no part of that and on Monday, they vowed to not let it happen.

"It's getting down to crunch time," said Mayor Greg Branch.

Branch and City Council members listened as City Manager Darnell Earley laid out potential options for reducing the city's biggest expense.

"How can we get the maximum number of public safety employees, police and fire, in service based upon our ability to pay for them today and five years hence?" asked Darnell Earley.

Earley believes the best bet is for the city to contract out police services to the Saginaw County sheriff and then restructuring the fire department. Under this proposal, 84 deputies would work in the city and staffing levels in the fire department would be cut from 51 positions to 36 positions. It's a move that would save more than $15 million over five years.

Of course, a lot would have to change for this to become reality.  Unions would have to be on board, and right now, the sheriff has said repeatedly that he is not interested.

"I'm looking at it not from a financial standpoint but from a safety standpoint.  I said I do not want to have a contract before and I haven't changed my mind," said Sheriff Bill Federspiel.

Federspiel said he believes more than 100 officers are necessary to safely patrol the city.  But for some council members, they say their goal is to find a solution that yields the most.

"It's extremely important that we figure how many boots we can get on the streets for the next five years," said council member Andrew Wendt.

Here's the reality the city faces if they can't figure out a solution.

Twenty firefighters would be lost, dropping the number to 35, and police would also take a devastating hit, dropping their number from roughly 80 officers to 55.

At Monday's meeting, Earley told the council and the public he will resume talks with Federspiel on Tuesday and plans to meet with union leaders later this week.

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