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Friday, March 06, 2009

Public Safety: Jack Johnson's Lowest Priority?

Comment: Unbelievable! Wasn't Jack promising before both elections to hire more police?

Budget Cuts Threaten Police, Fire Crews; Prince George's Co. Could Cut 320 Jobs.
myfoxdc.com, 5 Mar 2009 (Chavez).
UPPER MARLBORO, Md. - The financial crisis could hit emergency services in Prince George's County hard.

FOX 5 has learned Prince George's County is considering cutting 320 jobs. However, a whopping 71 percent of the latest cuts come from public safety.

It's not final yet, but with only 10 days to go before a final budget is submitted by county executive Jack Johnson, the layoffs are looking more likely.

On Thursday, one big option-- a property tax hike-- failed in Annapolis.

Police officers, deputies, and firefighters are bracing for the worst. Their jobs are on the line.

At firehouses like the Marlboro Volunteer Fire Department, the county's budget woes are a hot topic. With cuts looming, the uncertainty is spreading like a wildfire.

"It's nothing but rumors right now as to what they'll do," said Chief Tim Clark of the Marlboro Volunteer Fire Department. "We're worried here that they will take our two shift people here at night. It would definitely hurt us."

If money is not found, the county faces a $130 million budget shortfall.

FOX 5 obtained a list from the budget office, and it shows a worst-case scenario . Cuts will come from the jail and fire department, but the police department is at the top of the hit list.


"Right now if nothing changes, we have a big problem come July 1," said Dean Jones of the Fraternal Order of Police Union.

The police union says these cuts will be drastic.

"I don't understand why you would cut public safety in such a harsh way," said Jones. "You put peoples' lives in danger. People die when we are not able to do are job."

A closer look shows that of the 320 jobs that could be cut, 122 of them are police officers who would be pink slipped, along with 48 firefighters and 20 deputies from the sheriff's department. An additional 37 people from the Department of Corrections would also lose their jobs.

No other county department has more than 15 jobs on the line.

"It would be devastating to the police department," said Jones. "It would be devastating to the citizens that we police. I think you could put lives in jeopardy. We're not fully staffed if we take away 122 police officers. It's tough and it puts us in tough position. I just hope we survive it."

At the Marlboro Volunteer Fire Department, the volunteers make it work, but they count on paid county employees.

"If they are not here, there could be nights where we wouldn't have a volunteer driver in the house and wouldn't be able to get the apparatus out," said Chief Clark. "Public safety is probably the last place you want to see them cut."

March 16 is being called dooms-day. It's the day the 2010 budget will be submitted by county executive Jack Johnson.

All of this is in addition to the current 5,900 employees who have to take two weeks off without pay by June to offset this year's $57-million budget shortfall.
Proposed Pr. George's Layoffs Would Slash Public Safety Staffing
wjla.com, 5 Mar 2009.
UPPER MARLBORO, Md. - Prince George's County leaders will propose to eliminate 320 jobs in a effort to close the county's $132 million budget deficit, and public safety workers are among the hardest hit, according to a secret document obtained by ABC 7/NewsChannel 8

The preliminary numbers are spread out across county services but include 122 jobs in the police department, 48 positions in the fire and EMS department, 37 in corrections and 20 in the sheriff's office.

Union officials say all county residents, not just those who lose their jobs, will suffer.

"If we have a reduction in workforce, crime is going to go up," observed Dean Jones of the Fraternal Order of Police.

"It's going to have an impact on service delivery and the way we currently provide protection to the citizens," added Doug Bartholomew, president of the county's Professional Fire Fighters & Paramedics Association.

Robert Cease, president of the Deputy Sherriff's Association, says the county can't afford to lose 20 deputies: "We have about 40,000 open warrants in the county and we can't take the cuts and still provide the service that's needed," he said.

The plan, which wouldn't go into effect until July 1, is in addition to the two-week furloughs already ordered by county leaders.

County officials hope the $787 billion stimulus bill signed into law by President Obama will provide some money to the county. But the amount of any such disbursement remains unclear, as do how many positions it would save.

County Executive Jack Johnson won't comment publicly on the reduction-in-force proposals, and points out that the official budget won't be announced until March 16. Johnson had sought to collect more money by changing the way property taxes are collected, but that measure was killed this week in Annapolis. Layoffs may be the only way to close the gap, whether taxpayers like it or not.

"We're already in a bad state so if your laying off more police and fire workers, it's going to make us a state of devastation," said Yvette Murphy, a county resident.

According to Kenneth Watkins, "Something needs to be done. You've got the stimulus package, but it's not helping the small people."

The county executive will submit his budget the Monday after next. If the money can't be found, the layoffs will happen.

Other Proposed Cuts
Department; #
Co. Executive; 3
Co. Council (Staff); 6
Office Central Services; 15
Dept. Public Works & Trans.; 13
Dept. Environment; 10
Child and Family Services Dept.; 2
Health Department; 10

(Posted 6 Mar 2009)

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