Saginaw city manager: Police, fire layoff notices to be sent out in February
"That's what we will be budgeting for in 2014 for public safety," Earley said.
Current staffing for the police department is 73; fire staffing is 50. That means 33 officers and firefighters would be eliminated on July 1.
During city council's strategic planning session held Saturday, Jan. 26, at the Castle Museum, Earley said he is moving forward with plans to prevent the layoffs, which includes a proposed policing contract with Saginaw County Sheriff William Federspiel.
"There are issues that are outstanding and I don't know when they are going to come to fruition," Earley said.
Other potential solutions have also been offered to the city's budget problem.
Earley said he received a revenue-side proposal from Mayor Greg Branch on Sunday, Jan. 20, but said his staff has yet to review that proposal and analyze whether or not it will provide the necessary savings.
"It's essentially how can we step up revenue generation by police and firefighters," Branch said. "I think there are a lot of opportunities for us there."
The police unions have reiterated a proposal for a combined public safety option, he said. The city manager said that change would not provide the up-front cost savings that Saginaw needs to realize.
"We don't have a large fund balance to invest into cross-training police and fire like maybe some other communities have," Earley said. "We have to manage to our own circumstances."
At the end of the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the city had $1.2 million in its general fund. That amounts to about 3.6 percent of the total general fund budget, significantly less than is typically recommended to be held by governments in their fund balance.
Councilman Larry Coulouris said he would like to see more sound financial management in the future if Saginaw sees better days.
"Something went wrong when things were going very well, otherwise we wouldn't be in this situation today," Coulouris said. "Just because we have a lot of money piled up doesn't mean we should spend it like drunken sailors."
Though efforts will continue to pursue alternatives, Earley said his team plans to send out the layoff notices and will prepare a budget assuming the reduced staffing levels.
"We need to notify them," he said. "We have to move forward based on the information that we have."
Earley said those layoffs could be canceled before July 1 if an alternative is presented that can address the city's budget gap.
The budget, per Saginaw's city charter, must be presented to city council on or before April 29. The city's budget year begins on July 1.