St. Louis – A key city board on Wednesday did not reverse a $2 million cut to the St. Louis Fire Department.
An aldermanic committee made that cut and directed the funds to other projects. The Board of Estimate and Apportionment - Mayor Francis Slay, Comptroller Darlene Green, and Board of Aldermen president Lewis Reed - could have suggested the committee reverse the cut. They chose not to.
Firefighters Local 73 president Chris Molitor said a cut of that size will force the closure of a firehouse, putting people at risk.
"The closer we are, the better chance we have of saving people," he said. "When you start closing firehouses down, we're coming from further away, and it's going to take longer for help to get there and that's going to be critical."
A spokesman for Slay said the cut is a consequence of the department ignoring the mayor's warnings about the pressures rising pensions put on the budget.
Also on Wednesday, Green suggested requiring unpaid days off for more city employees to help close a $46 million budget gap.
A furlough plan last year that required rank and file employees to take five days off and management to take ten days off did not include the county offices like sheriff and license collector.
Green wants those offices included in the fiscal year, said her spokesman, John Farrell.
"It's important to be equitable for all the employees, especially the ones that carried the brunt this fiscal year," he said. "It would be great to get to all the city employees to come together and spread some of the pain around."
Expanding the number of people affected would mean just five unpaid days off for everyone, Farrel said. The comptroller is also proposing unpaid vacation days instead of furloughs.
Any unpaid vacation for city employees has to be negotiated into a pay plan.