Sedgwick Co. firefighters fight job cuts in $421M budget for 2015

WICHITA -- Sedgwick County firefighters are tackling a new battle: keeping their jobs.

Wednesday morning, some firefighters from Fire District 1 asked that the county reinstate the positions for the proposed 2015 budget.

"We're not a cost center within the Sedgwick County budget. We're a fire district and we're a value-added service,' said Dave Thompson, a 17-year firefighter with the county and representative with the International Association of Fire Fighters.

Sedgwick County Manager Bill Buchanan said it's a tough reality, but eliminating the jobs has helped reduce about $400,000 of its proposed $17.6 million plan for the fire department.

"Despite that savings, the fire district will run a deficit in 2015 and that's unacceptable," he said. "This is a consequence of how much services are provided and how high the taxes are. If you're not going to raise revenues, then service has to be diminished."

In the past four-and-a-half years, departments have seen significant change, Buchanan said. About 300 positions were eliminated throughout the county -- a result of a $59 million loss in revenues from the state.

"This commission's got a strong commitment to keep this community safe, but we've got to do it as responsible a price as possible," said commissioner Karl Peterjohn.

Commissioner Tim Norton echoed the sentiment and said the county should re-examine areas with a higher call emergency call volume.

Thompson said he understood the reality of budget cuts, but suggests the county consider an alternative.

"It might be time to look at management when it comes to cutting these positions rather than cutting the firefighters, where the rubber meets the road," he said.

"That's nonsense," Buchanan responded. "You need a command structure in absolute emergency situations and that's an easy thing to talk about but a terrible difficult thing to do."


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