Detroit Mayor Proposes 754 layoffs, Fire and Police Cuts

DETROIT (AP) -- Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick on Tuesday presented a draft budget that calls for laying off 754 city workers _ 4 percent of the municipal work force _ including some members of the police and fire departments.

Detroit, which employs 16,800 people, has been struggling with a deficit of more than $300 million, and some have predicted the city could end up in receivership.

The 754 layoffs are in addition to more than 900 job cuts Kilpatrick announced in January. At that time, he said he had no plans to touch police officers.

In his address to City Council on Tuesday, Kilpatrick proposed reducing the number of commanders and inspectors in the department. In addition, existing classes at the police academy would be suspended, he said.

''Not one police officer who is out there patrolling the streets today will be laid off,'' Kilpatrick said.

However, he said that promise could be kept only if the officers' union agrees to re-negotiate benefits.

In addition, Kilpatrick is proposing 61 layoffs in the fire department and 47 in EMS.

Kilpatrick needs City Council approval for the budget, but he has the authority to cut jobs on his own, as he did this winter, his spokesman, Howard Hughey, said.

The budget also calls for two new taxes, a 2 percent tax on fast food, and a property-transfer tax. Both would require the approval of city voters.

Kilpatrick said his plan assumes that the city will succeed in negotiating a 10 percent pay cut and changes in health care benefits for all union workers. Health care changes would save $47 million, only enough to balance out the increases the city is facing from its insurance provider and HMOs, he said.

Kilpatrick said the city must reduce its bulk trash pickup, but said basic services would continue to be provided at the same level, provided the unions make concessions.

''But if we cannot reach an agreement with our employees on shared benefit reductions, then the cuts will have to come in other, more painful ways that will mean a reduction in city services,'' Kilpatrick warned.

The budget also envisions transferring day-to-day operations of the Detroit Zoo and the Detroit Historical Museums, which currently receive financial support from the city, to nonprofit boards.

In a refrain he has repeated frequently in recent months, Kilpatrick, who is facing an election this year, blamed the budget problems on the state's weak economy, rising health care and pension costs and the city's shrinking tax base. With about 900,000 residents, Detroit is less than half the size it was at its peak in the 1950s.

Kilpatrick's opponents have questioned why he did not take action to rein in the mounting deficit earlier in his term.

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