Whether or not Oklahoma City can save 29 firefighter positions depends entirely on its ongoing contract negotiations with the city's fire union, officials said.
Like police, the Oklahoma City Fire Department was spared the 12 percent cut other city departments took in the fiscal year 2010-11 budget. But smaller cuts still meant fewer jobs, with 29 firefighter spots on the chopping block.
City officials have offered the union a chance to save those positions and add 10 new firefighter jobs. However, that option would require the fire union to accept pay concessions, including reduced salaries.
Phil Sipe, president of International Association of Firefighters Local 157, said instead of asking for pay concessions or cutting fire positions, council members should make more drastic cuts in other city departments.
"It becomes a question of priorities," Sipe said. "I think you need essential services that the citizens count on in order to feel safe. They have to decide where they want to spend the money."
City officials said there simply aren't any other places to cut. Police and fire are the only departments spared from cuts in recent years and were the only departments not to take 12 percent cuts in the current budget.
"This is the 10th budget I've presented to the council as city manager and it's by far the most difficult year that we've had," City Manager Jim Couch said. "It's been things outside of our control. It's generally due to the national economy that is before us."