CREATED Apr. 19, 2013
Omaha, NE -- The Omaha Fire Chief is asking the city council to reopen union contract negotiations because the department is running out of money.
On Friday, Chief Mike McDonnell sent a letter to council members asking to open negotiations because of a $8.6 million budget shortfall.
"With the remaining hole of $8.6 million today, we will not be able to meet payroll starting Oct. 12 of this year," said McDonnell.
In Sept. 2012, the city council approved a $70.5 million budget for the fire department.
In Dec. 2012, a contract was approved between the city and the fire fighters' union. It went into effect in Jan.
In Feb., the council gave them an additional $11.8 million, but McDonnell says it still isn't enough.
Steve LeClair, the president of the Omaha Fire Fighters Union, said he is against reopening contract negotiations, but he also said, timing is everything.
"If you get a budget, and then you negotiate something that is above that budget, you have to fund it appropriately," said LeClair. "I guess personally, that's my position. It should be funded appropriately and administered as it was negotiated."
Mayor Jim Suttle said the department is in this position because the contract was poorly done.
"Once the professionals in the city departments have gone through and estimated all this, now we have a huge number," said Suttle. "We are out-of-sync with the 2013 budget."
Mayoral challenger Jean Stothert said this is an issue of money management. It's not about having enough money.
"We expect all department directors, including the fire chief, to stay within that budget," said Stothert. "If they feel like they're going over it, then they need to reprioritize and reduce spending."
The fire chief is expected to meet with the city council's public safety committee on Tuesday.
Stothert, who is a member of that committee, said part of that meeting will include going over this request.