Targeted Minneapolis firefighters call out mayor

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT and MATT M c KINNEY Staff W riters
  • August 15, 2011 - 8:19 PM

After Minneapolis firefighters protested outside City Hall over the pending layoff of 10 of their number, a City Council member urged that the city find the money by Friday's council meeting to keep them on the payroll.

Council Member Gary Schiff said the city should try to find the money to keep them, noting that the cost of terminating them in the face of less state aid is almost as much as the savings.

He suggested dipping further into the city's contingency account but was warned that that account also might be needed if the city has to declare another snow emergency before the end of the year after last winter depleted the plowing budget.

A council committee did vote 4-2 to dip into the city's contingency funds for $1.75 million to avoid even more firehouse layoffs this year and to avoid a temporary layoff of nine police officers.

The fire layoffs were triggered last week as planned when the council adopted its 2011 budget with standby cuts if state aid stayed at last year's reduced level. The layoffs would go into effect next month, reducing the department's size to 387 firefighters.

That's down from a peak of 469 in 2003, according to Mark Lakosky, president of the firefighters union, Local 82 of the International Association of Firefighters.

The panel was told by budget officials that it would require another $293,000 to keep the 10 firefighters on the payroll for the rest of the year, and that cutting them will impose $228,416 in onetime costs for jobless pay and cashing out accrued benefits. Schiff said he'd like to work by Friday's full council meeting to find the money to keep them while a consultant retained by Fire Chief Alex Jackson examines the department's staffing and deployment. Mayoral aide Peter Wagenius said that with Mayor R.T. Rybak's proposed 2 percent property tax hike for 2012, his forthcoming budget would provide enough money to avoid future firefighter layoffs beyond the 10.

One reason the department is facing layoffs is that the council has made a series of onetime appropriations designed to allow it to shrink by attrition, but departures have been well below normal in a troubled economy.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438 Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747

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