MUSKEGON, Mich. -- The city of Muskegon passed a budget Tuesday night that includes a nearly $700,000 cut to the fire department.
Commissioners for the city of Muskegon had to approve a budget by June 30. To find a way to make the cuts, collective bargaining between the city and the union begins Friday. If everything goes well during negotiations, a final version could be ready in a couple months.
Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson says the cuts needed to be made for the city to get a handle on its costs. He pointed to rising pension and healthcare costs as the "Achilles' heel" of the department.
The firefighter's union says they're "extremely concerned" about the cuts and said they fear that if staffing is cut, lives could be put at risk in the event of an emergency. Peterson says there will be an alternative schedule worked out for appropriate levels of staff on days they think they'll need it most.
People in the community are worried the cuts could affect public safety. “Please, I beg you to do your research on what you're going to do differently, because a lot of it could turn into a huge waste of time," said one person.
Many people attending the meeting wore red to show their support for the fire department.
The city manager says the goal of reorganization for the Muskegon Fire Department is to reduce benefit costs to a more sustainable level.
The city is going to meet with the firefighter's union Friday to discuss where the cuts will be made.