MIRAMAR, Fla. – The impact of the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic is now reaching local governments here in South Florida.
The City of Miramar has become the first to announce furloughs to manage the financial fallout of COVID-19.
Included in those cuts are police and fire, which could impact public safety.
More than 1,200 people are employed by the City of Miramar, from clerks to custodial staff at City Hall, to roughly 150 firefighters and another 200-plus police officers.
"Taking away 20% of your staffing hours for police and fire, to me that is, that borders on incompetence," said Rob Skirvin, President of the Broward County PBA.
Union heads said they were not given a heads up, just a memo on Wednesday from the city manager’s office, which was the only notification.
It said, in part, “Each employee will be furloughed for 8 hours each week from June 11th to December 9th.”
“The COVID-19 is a different animal -- it’s unprecedented,” Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam said. “The city of Miramar will take financial hits in terms of our general fund.”
The city has projected a loss of about $23 million in the fiscal year’s budget because of a hit in general taxes and other intergovernmental revenues, like state and county dollars.
"We are making the appropriate adjustments to adjust to the financial impact," Messam said.
But the heads of both the police and fire unions maintain that cutting public safety in this manner is a risky and dangerous move.
“The fact that we are going to have less people on a scene, not only is that a reduction to the safety of the citizens, but to us as well,” said James Estep with IAFF Local 280, a union for firemen.
Added Skirvin: “For rescue calls and emergency calls, you’re going to have your staff stretched extremely, extremely thin. This could cause a great deal of overtime which ultimately could cost the city more.”