LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The city of Louisville is considering big cuts to emergency services to help fill a $65 million budget gap over the next four years.
Mayor Greg Fischer's office blames the shortfall on state-mandated pension increases the city is required to pay.
"The pension crisis is unfortunate, but it's real,” said Jeff Taylor with the Louisville Professional Firefighters Union.
Closing fire stations, eliminating ambulances and cutting police recruiting classes are all options being considered.
"If you cut fire police and EMS, then you put the city in jeopardy,” said John Stovall, President of Teamsters Local Union No. 783, which represents Metro EMS employees.
Local emergency service unions say cuts would put community safety at risk.
"We're going to have to be able to assure the public that we are going to provide for their safety,” said Nicolai Jilek, President of the River City FOP.
Jilek said LMPD is already understaffed and is one of the lowest-paying departments in the area.
"We want to keep our jobs here, but if this goes on long enough, and they can't figure this out, my guys are going to go elsewhere,” he said.
LMPD Chief Steve Conrad sent a letter to his officers, saying, in part:
Stovall is echoing the same sentiment as Conrad.
"The thing we need to think about right now is getting the Metro Council to look at options to come up with this money,” Stovall said.
The firefighters union is also feeling the heat.
“At the end of the day, we're going to have less firefighters doing the jobs that they need to do,” Taylor said.
Several fire stations are on the chopping block if the city decided to close two stations. Station 1 by the airport covering UPS and a huge section of I-65 and Station 20 on Bardstown Road in the Highlands are in high-service areas and at risk of closing.
"When somebody tells us they're going to close a firehouse, we generally believe it,” Taylor said.
Closing stations could mean slower response times in fire emergencies. That creates a danger for the firefighters themselves and the people they work to protect.
“It's a matter of life and death on behalf of the citizens of this community,” Taylor said.
Emergency services are not the only city services facing cuts. Hundreds of city workers could lose their jobs next year.
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