NAPLES, Fla. - The brotherhood among firefighters is evident in East Naples, where the union is offering voluntary pay and benefit cuts in order to save the jobs of nine of their fellow comrades.
The East Naples Fire Control District has a serious funding problem. Tax revenues have dropped nearly 30% in the last four years. The district is facing a $3.2 Million budget shortfall. Fire Commissioners voted unanimously to lay off nine firefighters to make up the difference.
"We are working diligently to maintain the best quality service we can with fewer people," said Fire Chief Kingman Shuldt who is already preparing for the departure of those nine employees.
This week the union offered more than two million dollars in concessions. However, firefighters are asking for a shorter work week, from 56 hours to 48. They say it will cut down on overtime costs, right now they're paid overtime after working more than 53 hours a week.
"We're not looking at reducing the work weeks simply to work less," said Chris Tobin, the union President, "we're looking at reducing the work week to save hundreds of thousands of dollars to the taxpayers."
The East Naples Board of Fire Commissioners met this week, but because the jobs weren't on the agenda no votes could be taken. The earliest any action on the new concessions could be taken is at the next meeting on November 8th.
The nine layoffs will occur on Sunday. Tobin is hopeful an agreement will be reached and the firefighters can return to work in two weeks.
"Put these people back on duty and back where they belong, on the trucks," Tobin said.
In January, residents will vote on a property tax increase to fund the East Naples Fire District. The Mill Rate would increase from $1.50 per $1000 of taxable property, to $2.00.