For the past three years, Syracuse has not hired a police officer or a firefighter. Mayor Stephanie Miner has said the city's finances are near a crisis level as the city deals with increased costs for pensions and medical care. But while the city froze hiring for the last three years in these two different departments, retirements left many positions open. There are currently 59 unfilled police officer positions and 34 fire positions and Mayor Stephanie is budgeting for 25 new hires in each department.
"Given the numbers that we saw in retirement eligibility and the amount we are spending on overtime. We felt this was an appropriate time to add these classes," said Miner in a press conference at city hall earlier today. As it stands now, 160 police officers and 58 firefighters are eligible for retirement this year.
"I have five people who are going to retire in January so we're already depleting the number of people the mayor has approved us to hire; so that attrition is constant," said Syracuse Fire Chief Paul Linnertz.
The new hires are expected to cost the city 5 million dollars a year but Miner along with the police and fire chiefs say the new hires are needed for the very near future.
"All of these new officers will go into patrol, we can fill some vacancies in our detective ranks, even make some promotions down the line," said Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler.
Mayor Miner said she will give more details tomorrow about where the funding for the new positions will come from. She did say new firefighters would reduce the city's overtime costs.
"Right now we have 190 overtime slots a week for fire, when we put these 25 new firefighters in the firehouses in the city, we will have 100 less overtime slots," said Miner. Miner also said the city needs to provide essential services now and in the future; even as it works on long term financial problems.
"You can not use the fiscal challenges we have and say, you can't do anything and just pull the covers over your head and say I can't function anymore,"said Miner.