Vancouver may cut firefighters, cops

Burton fire station may be closed

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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With a $10 million deficit looming, about 103 city of Vancouver workers will lose their jobs at the end of this year, City Manager Pat McDonnell said Monday.

The cuts, which make up about 10 percent of the city's 1,000-person work force, will include public safety employees, city officials said. The exact numbers of how many jobs would be cut from every city department weren't immediately available.

However, it appears that Fire Station 6 at Burton will be closed and 15 filled firefighter positions will be cut.

Also, indications are that at least 11 positions in the police department will be cut, more if a grant is not approved.

“This is a realistic budget package based on the most sound financial data we have at this time,” McDonnell said in a statement. “The choices are difficult and will impact our employees and our community, but they are the best choices available to us today while retaining our options for the future.”

McDonnell said that through streamlining some departments, consolidating into one building and other cost-saving strategies he'd trimmed the deficit from $10 million to $7.8 million.

The layoffs come on the heel of the loss of 66 positions earlier this year, which included 44 filled positions. Because many of the city's empty positions have been eliminated, many of the coming cuts will involve losing staff.

McDonnell said the city is now working with its labor and employee groups on cutting health care costs, the third significant step needed to reach his greater goal. If that can be done citywide, it could potentially save another $1.1 million, equal to about 11 to 16 full-time workers.

From the release:

"The city of Vancouver is mandated by law to balance its budget. Health insurance costs have been rising by double digits over the past decade and are projected to continue to do so through 2016. The city’s required contribution to the primary retirement system is forecast to almost double between 2010 and 2012. The recent deep recession has only exacerbated problems.

"In addition to cuts, the city’s baseline budget for next year has no new inflationary increases. Professional services are to be zero-based, which means current appropriations will be eliminated and any new requests will be thoroughly scrutinized. Similar process will be followed for travel and training expenses. A variety of other austerity measures, including eliminating cost of living adjustments for most city employees in 2009 and 2010, creating a hiring freeze, and increasing management and non-union employee participation in health benefit costs, have already been in effect for the past few years.

"To provide employees with time to prepare for the coming changes, McDonnell has asked his directors and chiefs to meet with employees starting this week to provide more detailed information about identified reductions for 2011-12. Where positions are eliminated, layoffs will be effective Dec. 31. More information about the reductions and likely impacts will be provided to the community as details become available. The final budget is scheduled for adoption in November 2010."

For a full story, read Tuesday's edition of The Columbian.