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Seven police, three firefighter jobs on line

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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A proposed budget, including the January layoff of seven police officers and three firefighters, will be presented Tuesday night to City Council. That’s according to City Manager Jim Estep and Assistant City Manager/Chief Financial Officer Anna Jatczak. Jatczak said that a community services officer would also be laid off in January if the budget is passed the way it is proposed. Council members directed city staff to include the public-safety cuts during their June 14 meeting. “We are presenting what the City Council directed to balance the budget,” Estep said. “We are presenting changes they asked us to make and hope to get the budget adopted.” The News Messenger asked Jatczak what the benefit of passing the budget Tuesday would be. “The budget is a guideline. It’s developed in a specific point in time and it does not eliminate the ability for the council to modify or amend it as priorities or circumstances change,” Jatczak said. “I think that this is the closure that the impacted employees feel when a final decision is made.” The News Messenger asked Estep when police officers and firefighters could expect their pink slips. “It depends on how many leave due to attrition (for police officers),” Estep said. “As early as possible, probably in November.” For the firefighters, Estep said, “Right away so we have six months notice.” “Some other cities give preference (for possible employment) to firefighters with pink slips,” Estep said. Estep said employees leaving prior to layoff “means they have jobs.” “When they leave, they have another job to go to, which is a good thing,” Estep said. “We want our people to have jobs, even if they are not here.” The News Messenger asked Lincoln’s five City Councilmen about the direction next year’s budget is going. “I think it’s definitely heading in a much better direction, in the sense that we have to plan a budget based on what our revenues are,” Councilman Tom Cosgrove said. “We can hope that something would happen, like a tax, that would help. But we can’t plan our budget on hope. We have to plan it on what our expected revenues are.” Councilman Gabriel Hydrick said he “likes what is being done.” “I’m OK with cutting a police officer or two but I’m not OK with four. Public safety is the priority and that’s what they (City Council) keep saying, too,” Hydrick said, who added the city does not “have a plan to get to” bring the Twelve Bridges Library to 23 hours. Because we don’t seem to have a plan, I’m uncomfortable cutting public safety.” Councilman Spencer Short said he is “not sure where the budget stands.” “I’m not sure if I can approve what the rest of the council is talking about,” Short said. “Some use of reserves would deplete our reserves in a short time frame. If something significant or catastrophic happened, we wouldn’t have any funds to put toward that and that’s what I’m concerned about.” Councilman Stan Nader said he “wants to use reserves.” “I was willing to adopt a budget (June 14) the way it was presented, short of doing reductions to library staff,” Nader said. “If the budget is presented the way three (of the council members) wanted, I’m not voting.” Nader said he wants to “see a reduction in the management staff of the library.” “I’d rather not lay off any police officers,” Nader said. “I’m very concerned about public safety.” Mayor Paul Joiner did not give his comment by press time.