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City Council seeks to prevent demotions in Fire Department $1.2 million needed to save 23 jobs.


The City Council is considering ways to generate the money necessary to prevent the demotion of 23 Fire Department officers.

"We have a number of proposed solid waste revenue measures before us and the council wants to find money from somewhere to keep these officers from being demoted," Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi, D-6th, chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, said yesterday.

DiBlasi's remarks came during a council review of the Fire Department's proposed budget for fiscal year 1992.

The council is considering several bills that would raise revenue by adding a surcharge to tipping fees paid by commercial haulers.

The council is also considering a tax to be paid by businesses for the removal of solid waste, and a wholesale distributor tax on specified non-recyclable products such as used-car batteries, and refrigerators.

Fire Chief Peter J. O'Connor told council members his department was informed by city finance officials to cut about $1.2 million in personnel costs from their original budget request.

"We were also given a mandate from the Schmoke administration not to make any cuts in the Emergency Medical Services or in the number of personnel we have available to fight fires," O'Connor said.

To accomplish the cuts, O'Connor said he decided to demote 23 officers and eliminate 19 other positions, most of which were vacant. None of these moves, O'Connor quickly asserted, would affect fire-fighting operations.

The fire chief told council members the cuts in personnel costs could not be accomplished for this coming year through normal attrition as has been the case in past years.

Discussions are currently under way between the administration and fire unions over a proposal to add incentives to early %J retirement. O'Connor said some fire fighters have decided not to retire while the incentives are being discussed.

"Personnel who were thinking of retiring in the near future are now holding back to see if their retirement benefits are going to be sweetened," said O'Connor. "Therefore, we can't accurately determine how many personnel we will lose in the coming fiscal year and see if that would allow us to make our $1.2 million target."

John L. Seiss, president of Fire Officers Local 964, said he and other union officials hope to meet with the administration tomorrow on the status of the union's offer.

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