ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Friday offered an initial look at what next year's city budget cuts could mean for public-safety services. Mayor Dan Sullivan has asked all departments to consider what a 7.5 percent budget cut from last year’s budget would look like.
While these early budget projections are merely a budget option at present and no numbers are final, Sullivan says the results mean some fire and police personnel will lose their jobs. Presidents of the local police and fire unions, however, say Sullivan's proposed cuts mean dozens of police officers and firefighters will be laid off.
To make up for a projected city budget shortfall next year of as much as $18 million, Sullivan recently asked all his department heads to submit budgets to him that reflect sharp year-on-year reductions.
“That's what it identifies as -- if you had to cut $18 to $20 million in savings, 7.5 percent just about gets you there across the board,” Sullivan said. “It would mean personnel reductions; there's no two ways about it.”
At this early point in the budgeting process, Sullivan's office says it doesn't want to be specific on what the cuts could mean. But at least for the Anchorage Fire Department's budget, AFD union president Rod Harris says he has an idea of what a budget cut like that would look like.
“For the fire department, it equates to three rigs and 37 positions, so it’s a significant number of apparatus that are going away,” Harris said.
That's 37 less responders on the streets responding to emergencies -- and shutting down the rigs could mean an even bigger problem.
“We only have 20 fire companies in the city as it is, so to take 3 of them out of service is a big reduction to the service we're providing to the citizens,” Harris said.
Fire Chief Mark Hall says the public would feel a cut like that, but he won't say if that's exactly what the plan would wind up being.
“Although that could be a possibility, just based on past experience, I'm not putting a lot of credence in that -- but anything's open, just so you know that,” Hall said.
APD’s staffing doesn’t look any better under a 7.5 percent budget cut.
“To have a budget reduction like that, we're talking about dozens or possibly scores of layoffs to achieve that,” said Derek Hsieh with the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association.
Hsieh says the cuts wouldn't just be in support staff, as sworn officers would have to go too.
“It would be the equivalent of losing two-thirds of a shift in the entire staffing -- it would just be dramatic,” Hsieh said.
APD Chief Mark Mew said he didn't want to comment on specifics of the budget because it's so early on in the process.
Sullivan says he will be taking into account input from the city's budget dialogues that were held last month before presenting his budget to the Anchorage Assembly in October.
Contact Jason Lamb at firstname.lastname@example.org