LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer proposed a 10 percent cut to the city budget to help fund pensions.
The comments came in his State of the City address Thursday. If the cuts happen, it could mean fewer police officers, firefighters, EMTs and corrections officers.
“Without additional revenue, we now face the prospect of serious cuts in services that would impact every connection between Louisvillians and their city government,” Fischer said. “Number of police on the streets, the hours you can visit your local library, fire stations, maintenance in our public parks. All of this would severely hamstring the momentum we’re experiencing as a city. Not acceptable and it is unavoidable. Cities all across Kentucky need the state to remove outdated restrictions that prevent us from finding ways to raise revenue that works best for us.”
Possible cuts to public safety, the largest portion of the city budget, doesn't sit well with already struggling public safety agencies.
Nicolai Jilek, president of River City FOP Lodge 614, said LMPD wouldn’t fare well with any cut.
“We are functionally understaffed,” Jilek said. “The infrastructure needs work. We have a lot of issues that need to be addressed in the city. They’ve been arguing they’re doing the best with what they got, but for us to be able to function with full effectiveness, we actually need more than what we have now. So, looking at cuts, there’s no way we can sustain cuts to Louisville Metro Police Department.”
Jilek said as of this month, there are 1,200 LMPD officers, but those numbers include command staff, detectives, and recruits in training.
“The boots on the ground, people that are there first on the scene when you need help, we don’t have enough,” Jilek said.
He said only 563 of those officers are patrol. Cut that in half for any given day, and there are only 282 officers on the streets. Cut that in half again for each 12 hour shift, and there are 141 officers at any given time.
Most of that force is focused in the west Louisville in the First, Second, and Fourth Divisions according to Jilek.
“If we have a population about three quarters of a million, spread out over 400 square miles, that’s a lot of work for 282 guys to handle in a day,” Jilek said.
He said they’re having a hard time even keeping the numbers they do have with other departments able to offer better pay and healthcare.
“I spoke with a patrol sergeant today with seven guys in his platoon that have viable job offers, that are considering leaving LMPD,” Jilek said. “That’s only one platoon in one of our eight patrol divisions.”
They are also having trouble finding recruits.
“Policing is not the attractive job that people used to look for,” Jilek said. “In this climate of all this public scrutiny, it’s a difficult world to police and now it requires qualified candidates, probably more than ever. To be able to attract those folks, you need to be able to have incentives to bring them here, and unfortunately Louisville is struggling with that right now.”
LMPD isn’t the only agency struggling with man power. Louisville Metro EMS has also been struggling for years now.
“They provide a vital service to the city of Louisville and any cut would hurt, we’re already shorthanded as it is,” John Stovall, the president of Teamsters Local 783, said.
Stovall said the 250 EMS workers in Louisville have to work 12, 16, even 18 hours shifts to deal with the shortages.
“It’s hard after a while,” Stovall said. “It takes a toll on you, takes a toll on your family because they work long hours in order to make up the shortages in Louisville.”
Hiring and retaining EMS personnel also has been a challenge, according to Stovall, because volunteer fire departments in some areas are starting to provide EMS services. Stovall said those districts add a tax to fund that EMS service. Those departments have better incentives for EMS personnel as well.
Both unions agree that Frankfort needs to step up and do something before drastic and damaging changes have to be made.