Fiscal Friction Flares Over Fire Budget

There were renewed sparks Tuesday in Omaha's fiscal tug-of-war with the city's fire fighters. Mayor Stothert issued a statement saying she's prepared to see the budget ax swing through the department if agreement can't be reached on a spending blueprint.

The statement quotes the mayor as saying, "If every city department was budgeted the amount requested the 2014 budget would be approximately $20 million short. To eliminate a property tax increase, every department was given a new budget with reductions in spending. Every city department director has been very cooperative during this budget process and has reduced spending to come within its adjusted budget target, except fire.

Fire Budget

"Chief McDonnell originally asked for $96.6 million in 2014, a $14 million increase from 2013. I asked him to reduce his request to $83.1. He was not able to do that. I have compromised and set the final number at $90.6 and he still cannot and will not make the necessary cuts.

"Therefore, working with the finance and law departments, I have proposed several options to fire management to reach the $90.6 million target. These options include a variety of cuts, including layoffs, demotions and taking rigs out of service. The options have also been presented to the fire union.

"Even today, we are working on alternatives that could prevent layoffs and keep rigs in service if the fire union and management will work with us. I have told Chief McDonnell and Union President Steve LeClair I am open to other options.

"If the Omaha Fire Department comes within their $90.6 million budget, we will have a balanced budget. I will not raise taxes to fund the fire department budget. I will not jeopardize public safety and we will not violate our labor contracts with this budget.”

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