March 21 2013 12:00 AM

Bernero ‘looking at’ police layoffs if no concessions


Thursday, March 21 — Unless its employee bargaining unit is willing to make concessions to reduce costs to the city, the Lansing Police Department may see layoffs as part of Mayor Virg Bernero’s next budget proposal.

Bernero, in a taping of “City Pulse Newsmakers” Wednesday, said that unless the Fraternal Order of Police is willing to renegotiate contracts particularly to reduce health care costs, then he’ll consider police layoffs to deal with next year’s $9 million budget deficit.

“That’s what we are looking at at this point,” Bernero said when asked if the department can expect layoffs if the union doesn’t make concessions.

The show airs at 10 a.m. Sunday on WHTV-my18.

Bernero was joined by former Mayor David Hollister to discuss the Financial Health Team’s short- and long-term budget recommendations presented earlier this week. Hollister headed the mostly mayoral-appointed committee, which recommended that $1 million in savings could be realized through police concessions. Bernero is scheduled to present his next fiscal year budget to the City Council Monday.

Bernero and Hollister both said that other employee unions — the UAW, Teamsters and the Firefighters union — have been willing to come to the table. The FOP has not, they said.

“The Fraternal Order of Police, the police union, they basically have said publicly ‘We’re not giving, we’re not opening our contract,’” Bernero said. “All of the other unions have said, ‘We will make concessions, we will work with you and have gone back to their members.

“The police union continues to basically say, ‘If you’ve gotta lay us off, lay us off,’ up to this point. I’m hoping that changes.”

In an interview on WKAR’s “Current State” this morning, FOP Executive Director Thomas Krug disputed the idea that police haven’t shared in concessions.

“At this point, we don’t see we have $1 million to cut out of that budget without cutting personnel,” Krug said. He cited the FOP’s switching to a PHP health plan from Blue Cross Blue Shield as one example of concessions. Krug also suggested the city move its police operations into City Hall instead of renting space for its north precinct as a way to save money.

In November 2011, Lansing voters approved a $7.6 million property tax increase to fund police, fire and road services. Bernero proposed bringing back nine officers as part of his budget last year. Hollister said the public safety millage “is all going to pay for increased health care costs.”

Bernero said he “never promised there would be no cuts with the millage, not knowing what the future would hold. … Come to find out there’s still significant pressure on the budget for savings.”

About two months after the first try at passing the public safety millage failed in May 2011, Bernero laid off 36 police employees.

In his budget proposal last year, Bernero requested non-emergency personnel take 26 furlough days unless savings in pension and health care costs were negotiated.

“It’s important we share the burden here,” Hollister said.

Since talks of potential layoffs if no concessions are made have surfaced, Krug said that “morale is down” within the LPD.

The Bernero interview also airs at 9 and 11:30 a.m. Sunday on Comcast Ch. 16 in Lansing and at 11:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. daily beginning Sunday on Comcast Ch. 30 in Meridian Township. It will also be available at beginning Monday.