Work Furloughs Ahead For City Employees?

The city of San Diego is facing a $54 million budget deficit and needs to cut expenses.

However, there is a possibility that some of the cuts could come at the expense of public safety.

City officials hope to get concessions from its unions, but an initial proposal is not sitting well with the people who protect the homes and property of those living in San Diego.

The public counts on the police and firefighters to show up when there is an emergency.

But could there be fewer of them on the streets of San Diego?

10News obtained a copy of the city's initial proposal to city unions, and a plan to implement a mandatory work furlough was listed in the proposal.

The furlough would include all employees, including safety, and would occur during fiscal year 2010 up to a maximum of 12 days per year.

The furlough would mean unpaid days off for police and firefighters.

10News talked to the head of the firefighters union and he had plenty to say.

"To even suggest that you would take a firefighter off any one of these bare-bones operation that we're running to just cover the city of over 300 square miles is definitely having an effect on public safety," said Frank De Clercq, of San Diego City Firefighters Local 145.

De Clercq said he has never heard of furloughs for public safety workers even being proposed before.

"It makes no sense. People must understand that we have to have a firefighter 24 hours a day, seven days a week on all these fire engines and trucks just to barely make times we're making now," said De Clercq.

De Clercq cited several reports that said San Diego needs 22 new fire stations and 300 more firefighters.

City firefighters made 125,000 calls last year, three-quarters of the calls were for people who needed medical help.

De Clercq said he knows the city has money problems, and the firefighters are willing to work with the city.

But he said the furlough proposal is not the way to solve budget problems.

"It might be a savings but it's going to be at a cost, and I think that's endangering the lives of citizens of this city," said De Clercq.

The city's proposal for furloughs is currently just a proposal and is far from a done deal.

For firefighters, however, it is a non-starter.

The president of the San Diego Police Officers Association, Brian Marvel, told 10News that the police are not opposed to voluntary furloughs, but they do oppose mandatory furloughs.