Auburn passes budget with controversial cuts to fire department

After a brutal budget process that drew hundreds of protestors earlier this week, the City of Auburn on Thursday night approved a new spending plan. The 4-1 vote enacts some deep cuts to the city's fire department.

The new budget makes 10 position cuts to the fire department. Four of the positions are vacant and will not be filled. The other six are on the job firefighters and will be cut. After initially considering cuts to the police department as well, there were no jobs eliminated there.

The city faced a $1.7 million budget deficit and the Mayor of Auburn had been against the cuts. "It's heart-wrenching," said Mayor Michael Quill. "Because I know what these men and women it's hard to scale back."

The cuts to firefighters' jobs, which will be eliminated on August 1st, has some concerned about safety. "It's absolutely going to jeopardize safety," said Lieutenant Brian Donovan. "I'm worried about the citizens of Auburn. But I'm worried about my guys. These are guys I trust my life with, and now all of a sudden these are guys who are going home. It's hard. It's like losing a brother; it really is."

As a result of the budget vote, citizens will also see a 1.5% property tax levy. The city said taxes would have gone up by at least 10% if fire department positions had not been cut, and that the increase would have been 16% without any cuts.

The City of Auburn also dipped into reserves for $300,000, and received $2.3 million in state aid. That aid will not be available next year.