RENO — The Reno City Council authorized the layoffs of 35 firefighters after a federal grant that was used to fund those positions last year was not renewed.
Council members on Wednesday voted 5-2 to enact the terminations as of July 1.
A federal grant was being counted on to fund 50 firefighters in the upcoming fiscal year. When the grant was denied, city officials found enough money to keep only 15 of those jobs.
Councilman Dwight Dortch made the motion to proceed with the layoffs, saying firefighters are overpaid and the union should agree to salary concessions in order to save more jobs, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.
“We’re in negotiations again, and it’s in your hands,” Dortch said to Reno Fire Fighters Local 731 representatives. “The average pay for the firefighters in this city is $129,000.”
A Reno Gazette-Journal analysis of Reno firefighter compensation shows the average firefighter made $122,000 in salary and benefits last year.
Council members Hillary Schieve and Oscar Delgado opposed the layoffs.
Schieve said Dortch wouldn’t believe that compensation was too high if he was in need of help.
“You can’t put a price on a life,” she said. “If it’s your life or your family, you’ll think differently.”
Fire Chief Michael Hernandez warned that the city is “cutting our system to the deck, the basement.” He said response time will increase, particularly in north Reno, Somersett and Skyline Boulevard areas, where stations will be closed.
Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus wanted to know, “With this reduction, will the citizens of Reno be safe?”
“That’s a difficult question,” Hernandez answered.