The has an article about budget deficits in Decatur which will result in layoffs throughout several city departments, including the fire department.

City Manager Ryan McCrady said Friday that the city will cut 20 positions, including six firefighters, to close a $1.6 million gap in next year’s budget.

Twelve people are being laid off, and eight currently or soon-to-be vacant positions will be eliminated, McCrady said. The employees were notified this week, with the cuts to take effect near the end of the city’s fiscal year on Dec. 31.

All departments are likely to be affected, except for police, which typically does not spend its entire personnel budget, and water, which is funded separately by user fees, he said.

The deficit in McCrady’s budget proposal comes from a projection that revenues such as sales and food and beverage taxes will remain flat. Expenses continue to rise, including a 10 percent jump in pension costs.

In addition to the firefighters, the positions include two senior clerk typists, four clerk typists, a human relations officer, human resources training officer, plan examiner, plan development manager, senior long-range planner, a rehab construction specialist and two engineering technicians.

Four of the firefighter positions were vacant, McCrady said. The cuts will not result in closing any of the city’s seven fire stations, but they will mean more “brownout” procedures, when a fire engine is shut down. Instead of nine companies, the city will operate eight companies at a time, he said.

“If we had a situation where we had multiple fires going on at one time, there could be a higher response time to something, but it’s hard to say because you never know for sure what the situation is going to be,” McCrady said. “… I’m not saying it’s great to run eight companies. I’m not saying that’s optimum, but we do believe we can protect the city and operate in that way.”

At 490 employees, the city’s work force is already down from the 576 people it employed five years ago.

The city’s operating budget has taken more hits in recent years because of rising pension contributions. City council members have not wanted to raise property taxes to pay for the increases, though Mayor Mike McElroy recently said the city could not continue to cut forever.

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