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Fire Chief: New Budget Should Prioritize Recruits To Fill 50+ Staff Shortage

City of Cincinnati
Cincinnati Fire Chief Roy Winston

The Cincinnati Fire Department hopes to train 40 new recruits by the end of the year, but Chief Roy Winston says the staff shortage will still strain the budget.

"Our budgeted strength is for 859 uniformed members; today we’re at 805," Winston told the Budget and Finance Committee Monday. "And I think we have six more anticipated retirements here before the end of the fiscal year."

The department is expected to be $8 million over budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. 

Assistant City Manager and Budget Director Christopher Bigham says the estimated deficit for next year's budget is not as bad as last year.

"I am hopeful that there will be additional - either CARES (Act) dollars or some sort of dollars - to help cover the cost of what the Chief talked about," Bigham said.

That could include other pandemic-related costs.

"Just during COVID season, our EMS supplies have gone up exponentially," Winston said. "Not only through use, but just prices have skyrocketed."

Council members Betsy Sundermann and Liz Keating want the new budget to prioritize funding for fire department recruits, including a class of 40 starting no later than July 1, and another 40 starting by April 2021.

"A new recruit class costs $4.21 million for the year," Sundermann said. "Which sounds like a lot until you compare it with all of the overtime because of attrition, COVID - everything. Just for the last six months, we've spent $5.5 million on overtime. And if we do that for an entire year, of course, that's $11 million."

Council will discuss the budget over the next few months and send their budget priorities to the mayor in May. The final budget must be adopted by June 30.

See the full budget presentation below.

Cincinnati Fire Department Budget Presentation by WVXU News on Scribd

Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.