CALGARY (660 NEWS) — Emergency services are on the chopping block as the City tries to cut $60 million from the budget to reduce taxes on small businesses. Calgary fire and police have both been given notice by administration to find the cuts.
According to the Calgary Firefighters Association, $9 million will be cut from the budget this year alone, and they anticipate more cuts in the future as the City tries to balance the needs of small business against providing vital emergency services.
It’s unclear how administration will find the money, but Mike Henson, president of the Calgary Firefighters Association, believes it will come down to the frontline staff.
“They’ve cut all of the support services to date that they can, the only place to look now is frontline service,” he pointed out. “Now whether that means to take a truck out of service, if it means to take an entire station out of service, I don’t know that yet.”
Henson says administration has already cut $20 million from the Calgary Fire Department budget over the past four years, leaving them short-staffed. He says this will put even more pressure on them to meet the needs of the community.
Forty recruits were scheduled to start July 15. However, that won’t be happening after they received a letter.
“Those people have been told by the City of Calgary that they are no longer going to start in July,” he said. “They are deferred indefinitely is the message that was given.”
Before the notice of motion was passed to lower property taxes for commercial businesses, Mayor Naheed Nenshi warned that it would affect city services.
Calgary police has also received a budget cut request from city administration, the cost of which is unknown.
Coun. Ward Sutherland, who sits on the Calgary Police Commission, says CPS is reviewing the ask.
“The police commission’s obligation is to [examine] whether this will impede the safety of Calgarians, and can we handle this amount of cuts?”
He said CPS will have to present detailed budget cuts by July 29 to the commission, but it won’t be easy as the demand for police services has increased compared to last year.
“One of the things with CPS is there has been a shortage of officers,” he said. “The safety and the concern is not to cut too many officers because we need to continue hiring because we are behind to begin with.”