SPOKANE, Wash – A contract agreement has been reached between the firefighters' union, Local 29, and the City of Spokane. But it's not a done deal until the City Council and union members approve it.
The 2012 General Fund for the City of Spokane is $164.5 million dollars. The fire department gets 20.8% of that money, or about $34.2 million.
Spokane Mayor David Condon has proposed a no-growth budget for 2013, meaning the fire department is getting the same amount of money to cover expenses as it did last year.
But costs are rising, which means the new contract agreement comes with cuts.
The Spokane Fire Department will have to find $1 million in reductions for 2013, and there are only so many ways it can do that.
"The general alternatives we have when we have to look at significant reductions are: reduce staffing, take units out of service, or close stations," Fire Chief Bobby Williams told KHQ. "So we'll look at those and other alternatives to close this budget gap."
No decisions have yet been made on which route the department will take, but Chief Williams says this is a good agreement for everybody.
Under the new contract, there will be no wage increases through 2013, but then, slight raises in 2014 and 2015, when the economy is expected to be better.
Also, health plans are being restructured to cap the cost to the city for firefighters' medical care.
This new 4-year contract extends through 2015.
Earlier this year, the city council rejected a tentative agreement, so it was back to the bargaining table once again.
If the City and Local 29 didn't come to an agreement, it would have gone to arbitration, which would have meant more time and more of your taxpayer dollars.
"It is very difficult in these times to get an agreement that is fair for both sides," Chief Williams told KHQ. "And the fact that we're avoiding arbitration we believe is in the best interest of both parties."
This agreement would cover 287 Spokane firefighters.
The City Council will consider it at its Oct. 15th meeting. If approved, members of Local 29 will then vote on it.