The Auburn Firefighters Union Local 1446 released a press statement Wednesday in the wake of City Council's proposed departmental cuts for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
According to the release, the reason for the city's budget shortfall is caused by the city's contract with Greenfield Energy for the co-generation facility, not by employee benefits.
The current budget proposal from City Manager Doug Selby cuts eight fire department positions to cover a gap of approximately $3.5 million.
Furthermore, proposed cuts from City Councilor Matt Smith from Tuesday's special City Council meeting would further eliminate eight more department positions, including four assistant fire chiefs and two full-time firefighters.
The statement gives a list of concessions made by the union and several recommendations of staffing management from outside organizations. This includes a reported $500,000 in contractual concessions during recent contract negotiations, according to the release.
The release states the city has paid for two independent studies of the department, with both studies recommending the current staffing levels at minimum.
The Auburn Fire Department is the only department in Cayuga County with an Insurance Service Office rating of 2, according to the release. ISO is run on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst. Should the department's ISO rating fall due to insufficient staffing levels, insurance premiums will go up, according to the release.
In response to the fire department, Selby released a statement in which he speaks for city government. Selby said the city does not agree with the quoted amount of concessions, $500,000, by the firefighters.
"We do acknowledge that there have been some considerations brought forward that would be of financial benefit, however, they were accompanied by items that would actually increase total costs and therefore we remain apart on this issue," the statement reads.
Selby said the "burden of unfunded state and federal mandates" as well as a stagnant economy are part of the reason for restraining city resources and workforce reduction.
"Although the near-term revenue outlook is rather bleak for city government, we hope that as the local economy improves over the next several years, we can restore city workers and services," he said.
Smith echoed Selby's statement, saying "most of the (statement) was completely fictional." He also said the amount of $500,000 is "grossly inaccurate" and that the fire department's latest proposal would increase costs, not decrease them.
"The bottom line is that we have a fire department we cannot afford," he said. "When the starting salary of a fireman increases by $20,000 in five years, we know that's a bill the average taxpayer cannot afford to pay.
"Instead of looking to reform the department, they're looking toward their self-interest."
Although he admits the co-generational facility has lost money, Smith said it is not the cause of structural deficits facing the city. Some of the reasons Smith listed were shrinking manufacturing, runaway pensions, binding mandates, retiree benefits and binding arbitration rates, all of which Smith said "are systematic problems state-wide."
"It would be the world's largest red herring to suggest that the facility would be to blame for the enormous structural deficit that the city of Auburn is facing."