Mayor's budget asks too much of fire fighters

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has proposed additional cuts to the Baltimore City Fire Department in her proposed budget ("'Tough choices' in city budget plan," March 21). The budget includes a proposed schedule change for the men and women who run into burning buildings that would increase their work hours along with reducing their hourly rate of pay while ultimately reducing the staffing of the department by as many as 300 positions.

Those fire fighters already work on average two hours a week longer than other city employees without additional compensation. Their salaries are roughly 16 percent to 20 percent less than the surrounding fire departments in the state of Maryland.

Throughout my career we have always contributed to our pensions, and beginning July 1, 2013, our members will have realized an 80 percent increase of the employee contributions to the fire and police pension system since 2010. Fire fighters in Baltimore do not receive Social Security benefits and must count on their pensions to sustain them after a grueling and sometimes debilitating career.

We truly recognize the importance of a sustainable pension. In three of the past four years we have suffered wage reductions by way of furloughs, stagnant wage increases while contributing more to the rising costs of health care, which has resulted in a net loss of take home pay. The men and women of the BCFD have given plenty during this economic downturn and only ask that the city administration look at other avenues before once again asking our folks to give more.

Whether it is a severe weather event, major emergency incident, a child needing rescue from a burning building or a family member needing immediate medical care, we will continue to serve the citizens of Baltimore with dignity and professionalism.

Michael B. Campbell, Baltimore

The writer is president of Baltimore Fire Officers, Local 964.

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