Huntington officials say they’re using layoffs and cuts to cut the city’s projected $4.8 million budget deficit in half. Huntington’s mayor says he doesn’t anticipate any more cuts to the city’s staff as he looks to close the rest of the fiscal gap.
Huntington Mayor Steve Williams has authorized cuts to the city budget that range from changes in health insurance, to instituting a hiring freeze, to making cuts to the police and fire departments. Those cuts include the dismissal of 24 of the city’s 355 employees.
Six civilians were let go in the police department, including record clerks, an administrative assistant, an IT technician and a fleet coordinator. One temporary police officer was let go, an officer who fills in for others when they’re on military duty, and 10 recently hired probationary officers that were either still being trained or are going through the police academy. On the fire department side, seven recently hired probationary firefighters were let go as well. Williams said this is just the beginning of the process.
"What we’re doing today is just the first step, it’s a surgical operation," Williams said. "And what we’re hoping is the results of what we’re doing today will put us in a position where we don’t have to come back to make any further adjustments."
Williams said he still needs to work on finding ways to reduce the $2.2 million deficit the city still faces, but he doesn’t expect any more personnel cuts. He also said they could take some of that debt into the next fiscal year.
Huntington Police Chief Joe Ciccarelli said the cuts shouldn’t affect public safety.
"We’re going to backfill the positions in patrol bureau, so that our patrol forces are fully staffed as they are today," Ciccarelli said. "We will see, because we’re going to pull officers from other assignments, we will see reductions in the special investigations bureau and the criminal investigations bureau, but we’ll attempt to maintain as much as we can the level of service that we have been providing."
Brian Lucas is the President Fraternal Order of Police, Gold Star 65 -- the union that represents Huntington’s police department. Lucas said he hopes there are no more cuts after today, but said he’s not sure he can believe the mayor.
"The Mayor sat up in council and said he was exploring every option of not cutting jobs and 24 are gone," Lucas said. "I have absolutely zero faith in anything he says about not cutting jobs at this point. If he proves me otherwise, I’ll be the first to come here and give him his props, until then I believe nothing he says about not cutting jobs."
The cuts announced Thursday are effective immediately.