(SPRING VALLEY) The San Miguel Fire District voted 4-2 Wednesday evening to approve a series of cuts to firefighters' pay and benefits, as well as to fire services in the Dehesa community.
Dozens of passionate residents and firefighters packed a district board meeting, criticizing the board members and fire chief for not assuming some of the burden for these budget cuts, and charging that these cuts will come at a cost to public safety.
According to San Miguel Fire Chief Augie Ghio, the cuts are necessary because of a $2.5 million reduction in property tax revenue to the General Fund over the past three years.
The cuts to service include removing two engines from Station 23, servicing the Dehesa community, as well as replacing a three-person fire engine company with a two-person paramedics squad, primarily responsible for responding to medical emergencies. Medical emergencies make up roughly 70 percent of the service calls to Station 23, according to Ghio.
The board also approved a $1.2 million reduction in salary and benefits for the district's firefighters and paramedics, ending an impasse in negotiation with the firefighter's unions. This additional reduction comes after reducing the firefighters' pay by 14 percent over the past two years.
The approved cuts in fire service will take effect on November 1.
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