CINCINNATI - There might be layoffs in the Cincinnati Police Department to help cut the city's projected $44 million budget deficit.
That's what FOP President Kathy Harrell said Mayor Mark Mallory told her would happen if council rejects the proposed increase in the city's property tax. Harrell added the mayor said it might mean canceling the upcoming recruit class as well.
A vote on the increase is likely during a special session of Cincinnati City Council on Wednesday. The measure would raise $8 million and cost the average property owner an extra $56 a year.
Harrell said the conversation caught her off guard, since officers have gone without a pay raise for the past two years to help the city control costs.
"To even think about laying off to me is outrageous, not to mention it puts the public safety at risk," she said.
The police department currently has 1,003 sworn members, down from 1,135 just two years ago, according to Harrell. She said that could drop another 30 to 50 officers by the end of the year because of retirements.
"Here we are talking about layoffs when you've got The Banks project running full steam ahead, you've got a casino that's coming in and you've got certain councilmembers that are still talking about a streetcar," she said.
Vice-Mayor Roxanne Qualls acknowledged that the number of sworn police officers and firefighters is at minimum levels right now. Cutting further might be a very hard sell.
"I know that for myself as well as other members of council, we would be hard pressed to think that we could actually afford to reduce our complement at this point in police and fire," she said.
Councilmember Christopher Smitherman said he agreed with that sentiment.
"This is an example of this council mismanaging money. That's where we are," he said. "I'm not going to support laying off police officers and firefighters."
Still to be determined is how the budget gap will be closed.