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Gary, Ind. Firefighters Battle Pay, Shift Cuts
City Facing $13M Budget Shortfall Cut City Employee Salaries By 20 Percent
Pamela Jones GARY, Ind. (CBS) ― The city of Gary, Ind., has a budget deficit of $13 million. So to make ends meet, firefighters and police officers are on furlough.
CBS 2 Northwest Indiana Bureau Chief Pamela Jones reports firefighters will go to court to try and stop shift and pay reductions.
The 20 percent pay cuts that went in effect Monday have city employees across the board frightened for their future.
Firefighters are calling it a state of emergency in Gary.
"I mean [Mayor Rudy Clay] he's sending us back to what they were making back in 1979," said firefighter Eric Yarbrough. "I mean milk is $4 a gallon, gas is $4 a gallon."
The cuts mean the city's ignoring a court order requiring at least four firefighters per truck for safety; they're using three.
"One, you want to cut our pay by 20 percent. Then you're going to cut my manpower. You're just adding extra stress onto extra stress," said Raynard Robinson, president of the firefighters union.
City cuts could hit the Marsh family doubly hard. Latonia Shield-Marsh is a police sergeant, and her husband, Harold Marsh, is a paramedic.
"That's a 40 percent cut in your household, and when you've got children and we have two…" Shield-Marsh said.
"My mother was shot and killed here my second day on the job. And I got the call. You know," Marsh said. "And I swore right then that I would be here forever. Now that's changing, you know."
Gary Mayor Rudy Clay said, "It's like wrestling with an octopus, you know… you fix one leg, another one grows."
Clay says even with the fire department at half of its staff, the city is still safe.
"You get to a fire you've got three men," Clay said. "In another two seconds or three seconds you've got 15 men. So it's not a matter of how many ride to the fire on one truck."
The police department got a temporary restraining order to stop pay and shift reductions. At a hearing in Crown Point Monday, the city asked for a change of venue, leaving that part of the budget battle on hold.
City Councilmember Marilyn Krusas says the changes for city workers will apply until the end of the year. But if the state doesn't provide some relief this issue will snowball and Gary could face having to trim the budget by some $35 million next year.