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Fire Chiefs Speaks Out On Budget

Josh Egbert

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Fire Chiefs Speaks Out On Budget

CREATED Aug. 6, 2013

Omaha, NE- It was all about the budget and contracts Tuesday as Omaha City Council heard from departments on the mayor's proposed budget.

For the first time since the budget was introduced, Omaha's Fire Chief spoke about the cuts to his department. The chief was it's all about working together and getting back to the negotiating table.

Chief Mike McDonnell was flanked by several of his assistant fire chiefs Tuesday as he talked publicly for the first time since Mayor Jean Stothert released her proposed 2014 budget.

"We didn't come here today to say we want X amount of dollars, but to actually be able to look at the collective bargaining agreement that is good through all of next year, look at not reducing service to the citizens, all working together trying to find a way to come within that budget number that the Mayor said," says Chief McDonnell.

Mayor Stothert's proposal gives the fire department $90.6 million. The budget is more than $8 million more than 2013.

"I can tell you, we've met with almost all the departments so far today and no department has received this kind of increase and a lot of them said we need more." says councilwoman Aimee Melton.

Even with the increase, Chief McDonnell says they're still about $3 million short from meeting a collective bargaining agreement with the fire union.

"There's nobody else in the city except for the fire union and fire management that have a collective bargaining agreement for 2014." says Chief McDonnell.

The chief say he's not asking the council for more money, rather ideas to meet that $90.6 million budget.

"Going through the process we will continue to work with the city council and our goal is to not take any piece of equipment out of service." says Chief McDonnell.

To meet the budget, the mayor has proposed layoffs and taking 2 rigs out of service, but both the chief and some council members have concerns about public safety.

"Can you accomplish that mission with an 88 million dollar budget?" asks councilman Garry Gernandt.

The fire department wasn't the only department to present how they are going to spend their part of the mayor's $340 million budget.

Police Chief Todd Schmaderer talked about increasing the number of officers on the streets.

"If we were to increase from 804 to 820 or something that would give us a head start on our time frame to get us to this." says Chief Schmaderer.

The police budget also includes new cruisers and new radios.

The parks department budget includes keeping all city swimming pools and open and cleaning up Miller Park.

The Planning Department spoke about using their money for an increase in demolition of abandoned homes in 2014 and making code enforcement easier.

The public will get a chance to weigh in on the budget proposal. City Council will hold a special session Tuesday, August, 13th at 7.