Spa City Safety Commissioner: Budget cuts would mean fewer officers, firefighters

A budget shortfall in the City of Saratoga Springs would lead to widespread cuts and a reduction in the quality of emergency services if proposed department reductions are carried out, according to Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim.

Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins has proposed that the city shore up a $3 million shortfall brought about by poorer than expected tax revenues and a total removal of state VLT aid through cuts to all city departments. Public Safety has the largest budget, and would suffer $1.3 million in cuts.

Kim presented a scenario to the City Council on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 27, that would eliminate 14 firefighters, 18 patrol officers and a number of other positions and programs to come up with $1.3 million in savings.

The police department employs over 70 officers and the fire department has 55 members. Kim said the staffing reductions would be about as low as the department could possibly go. Even so, he stressed that response times would suffer.

Folks, you're going to wait, he said. "If we go below minimum staffing, we'll have to close the West Side Station periodically. We won't have enough bodies."

Kim's scenario also included the elimination of school crossing guards, who also work during track season; the firing of two police dispatchers; firing all but one parking enforcement officer; eliminating the DARE program and Operation Safe Child; and reducing police and fire training budgets.

Police Chief Edward Moore spoke during the meeting to say that cutting officers when calls have increased 15 percent over last year is not only unwise, it's unsafe.

"This is going to hurt us, it's going to get one of our officers seriously injured or killed," he said. "I'm going to have to assign supervisors, high level supervisors, to the street, and they are going to have to forget about administrative duties."

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