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Hialeah Firefighters Outraged Over Approved Budget

HIALEAH (CBS4) – Hialeah firefighters voiced their outrage over the now-approved budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year at Thursday night's budget hearing.

The budget will take effect on October 1st and, if the union and city don't reach a compromise, it would cut about 40 percent of their work force from 266 to 161 firefighters.

"We cannot possibly sustain our level of service with those cuts or any cuts in staff. This is about public safety and life or death," said Hialeah Association of Firefighters President Mario Pico. "Our response times will increase and people may die."

Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez told CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald that layoffs would begin in October unless the fire union agrees to $4 million in concessions.

"This is not easy! This is not a joy for anyone here," said Mayor Hernandez.

Another hearing will be held on September 26, 2011, to allow the residents the opportunity to voice suggestions and concerns regarding the proposed budget.

The Herald reported that Hialeah's proposed budget would not raise property taxes, but would count on steep employee concessions, especially from the city's fire department.

If staffing levels drop below the current numbers, the city would have to return $2 million in federal Homeland Security grants, as well as raise insurance rates for both residential and commercial policy holders.

"The residents of this community expect and deserve a balanced budget without raising taxes," said Hernandez. "I remain committed to ensuring that our local government makes the necessary sacrifices to live within its means, while continuing to deliver quality service to Hialeah residents."

The council voted unanimously to approve the budget.

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