Saint John fire department ‘targeted’ in draft budget
Saint John city council has reviewed a draft version of the 2013 budget and could pass the document as early as Thursday.
It cuts about $500,000 from the fire department while increasing spending on roads and public transit by about $1.3 million each.
"Once again the firefighters were targeted," said union president Paul Stackhouse.
He said the fire department already lost 16 jobs last year.
"We're way, way below the amount of firefighters we need to protect the citizens of Saint John, as well as ourselves."
The fire department gets $20 million a year, which is one of the highest budgets for a city of its size in Canada.
The amount of the cut roughly corresponds to the cost of two years worth of salary increases awarded to firefighters by a labour arbitrator.
The firefighter's union is the only employee group that failed to agree to a two-year salary freeze requested by city council back in 2010.
Most city councillors approved of the spending draft at Monday night's meeting.
"We're turning the ship around and I think we're heading in the right direction," said Coun. John MacKenzie.
Gains and losses
There will be some big winners if the budget passes. The top up for public transit will allow some cancelled evening runs to be restored. The amount to be set aside for the demolition of derelict buildings would be doubled.
"There's only so many dollars to go around and this community has very clearly indicated how it would like to see its dollars spent," said Mayor Mel Norton.
The budget could be approved as early as Thursday when council is also expected to give the final go-ahead to a plan to restructure the city's pension plan.