Ill. firefighters union: Proposed city budget is harmful to public

Union president Ryan Brady said lives will be at risk if the city cuts two fire trucks and 22 firefighters as a proposed budget suggests

PEORIA, Ill. — A union is concerned about a city’s proposed budget plan, and said residents could be at risk if the fire department cuts being considered are made.

The Journal Star reported that in an effort to close a projected $6 million deficit, City Manager Patrick Urich’s 2019 budget proposal includes cutting two fire trucks and 22 firefighters.

Peoria Firefighters Union President Ryan Brady said lives will be at risk if the cuts are made.

“Fire doubles in size with every minute that goes by,” Brady said. “If you couple fire doubling in size with longer response times and less resources to respond, undoubtedly, you are putting citizens and firefighters at a greater risk and increasing property losses and injury.”

The cuts would equal a $2.2 million reduction in the department budget, and Brady said two classes of firefighters hired and trained in 2018 would have to be laid off if the proposed cuts are approved.

“It should not be the responsibility of the firefighters union to come up with $2.2 million to balance the city’s $200-plus million operating budget, as cuts to public safety are unacceptable and will be harmful to the citizens of Peoria,” he said.

While Urich and Mayor Jim Ardis claim pension obligations are the top drain on city resources, Brady said the costs are so high because the accounts went unfunded for a long time.

“Approximately 25 years ago, the Peoria fire pension fund was effectively 90-plus percent funded,” Brady said. “However, due to the misappropriation of funding or lack of funding by previous mayors, city managers and councils, we are faced with dealing with the situation present day.”

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