Orlando Budget Cuts To Slice Public Safety

ORLANDO, Fla. --

The biggest city in the region could be taking the biggest hit when it comes to a plunging economy -- and residents' safety could be on the line.

Orlando's mayor is asking the police chief to cut nearly $11 million from her budget, and from the fire chief, another $7 million plus.

The police chief said Monday that layoffs of uniformed officers are possible. Already 50 civilian employees of the police department have been notified that they'll be out of work beginning Oct. 1.

The details of the city's budget crunch reveal that there's a $40 million gap citywide, and the mayor said dipping into reserves is not an option because that could severely hurt the city's credit rating. While Mayor Buddy Dyer had promised to hire 25 officers this year as part of a three-year plan to add 75 officers, the city is now scrambling for a government bailout in the form of federal stimulus money that would keep 15 officers on the job.

Orlando Police Chief Val Demings told WESH 2 News Monday that while she hopes cutbacks in overtime and some non-public safety programs will fix the problem, she admits that some officers on the street could be let go and she's working with the police union to find the right plan.

"They have presented a plan and we have presented a plan. Somewhere in the middle we're trying to come to some consensus about where we are going to end up, but I cannot at this time say that there will be no officers laid off," Demings said.

On the fire side of public safety, the chief said he intends to keep all current firefighters on the job, but may take some fire and rescue units out of service. In some cases that would mean stretching resources thin and the chief admits that could increase response times to fires and other emergencies.

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