Cincinnati is waiting to see how many police officers will be laid off, the reason for which is being laid at the feet of the $28 million deficit city manager Dohoney announced a few weeks ago.
Accusations of playing one union against the other are rampant, as the fire department is not laying any personnel off. The fire department was able to absorb the cuts by closing 4 companies and moving the firefighters from those companies around.
The local news is now saturated by coverage of emergency press conferences from the city manager or police chief. At a town hall meeting the other night, a woman challenged that if the city were safe enough to lay off 138 police officers than why did the mayor still need a body guard?
What no one seems to be discussing how a $28 million deficit appears to have caught the city unawares. The city’s budget manager and city manager are paid to keep on eye on expenditures. Their forecasts should have predicted this shortfall so did they take any preventive measures?
The tendency in the public sector (federal, state or local) is to reduce spending by cancelling training. Both the fire and police departments have cancelled academy classes this year. The fire department may not conduct another academy until 2011. I’m not certain when the police department plans to conduct another academy.
Cutting training classes is a quick fix that causes little political risk. However, appearances are deceiving. Academies (including boot camp in the military) produce new entry level personnel, the importance of which gets diminished during austere budget cycles.
The life cycle of the typical firefighter, police officer, or military recruit is 20-25 years. However, many won’t make it to retirement due to injuries, lifestyle changes, disciplinary actions, or transfers to other agencies.
To keep enough personnel on board for promotions and backfill losses, the academies are the lifeblood for their respective agency. Ideally, academies should produce enough graduates to offset annual losses. Agencies tend to see anywhere from 5-10 percent of their employees leave so an academy class that produces 30-50 graduates per class is about right for a mid sized city such as Cincinnati.
The problem for Cincinnati is just starting. The Drop Program has kept hundreds of both police and firefighters on the job. Starting in 2011, these same people will have to retire. The impact of those leaving under the Drop Program means a glut of mid-level and upper level positions will be rapidly filled with younger personnel. The lower positions may not have enough new personnel to backfill.
The personnel shortfall becomes even bleaker should the city be unable to balance it future budgets. The officers laid off this time may not be able to be hired back or may get hired by other departments.
If the city wants economic revitalization, then it needs to focus more on it public services. A safe community is more attractive to new business. A community that isn’t viewed as safe will have a much harder time attracting new business to help stimulate economic recovery.