San Bernardino Seal

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 11/11/13, 10:20 PM PST |

SAN BERNARDINO >> The Fire Department has been asked to present a plan within two weeks that will cut $2 million by the end of this fiscal year and $4 million from the following year’s budget, Fire Chief George Avery said in a memo sent to his employees Monday.

Avery said City Manager Allen Parker ordered the plan, which must be approved by the City Council before it’s implemented, so that it could be presented before the mediation the city has scheduled Nov. 25-27 with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and other creditors.

“The primary reason for these unbelievable cuts is to pay Calpers,” Avery wrote, saying he was dedicated to making sure there were no layoffs but “major impacts to service” will be seen by the public. “Again, I am sickened that these cuts are needed to be made in this manner and under this time restraint, but the survival of our retirement system is hanging in the balance.”

When it’s presented, the plan will include a study of how any cuts will affect service times, Avery said by phone.

“Obviously, we’re looking at all options and will present the least-impacting to the council,” he said. “The bottom line is that the city has to make these drastic cuts in order to survive right now. And that doesn’t mean that in the future, once the economy stabilizes in the city of San Bernardino, that we’re not able to provide all of the services again.”

Parker said the direction was based on a Santa Clara Grand Jury report on how fire departments can save money with more modern practices, and wouldn’t necessarily mean service reductions.

“I’m looking at both police and fire and the need for us to save some money there, and so the money could come from better ways of providing services,” said Parker, who didn’t have the proposals with him because it was Veterans Day. “It’s not necessarily that I’m looking to contract out or anything like that — obviously everything is on the table — but there’s really a lot that can be done, according to this report, by setting up a Fire Department for today rather than for 100 years ago.”

Parker said he plans to meet with managers and rank-and-file fire employees before mediation begins, and will approach the Police Department after an interim or permanent replacement for departing Police Chief Robert Handy is appointed.

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