METHUEN — Twenty eight of the Methuen Police Department's 64 patrol officers received layoff notices last week.
"The loss of this many officers will dramatically undermine public safety and severely limit the PD's ability to serve a city of our size," said patrolmen's union President Larry May. "As the union president, I am obviously concerned. As a resident of this community, I am outright disturbed. This reduction, if carried out, represents one of the largest percent workforce reductions in a community patrol force in the entire state."
Ninety city employees received pink slips as Mayor William Manzi works to close a $6.5 million to $7 million budget deficit. The layoffs would take effect when fiscal 2011 begins July 1, but the unions can reach agreements with Manzi to save jobs.
Also on the chopping block are 33 firefighters. The rest of the layoffs would be in City Hall and the Department of Public Works, according to Manzi. City councilors will have to vote on Manzi's fiscal 2011 budget before July 1.
Come July 1, workers are slated to see their pay restored to what it was before the 10-percent pay cuts they took for this fiscal year. But workers could opt to keep their pay at the current level, which would save the city $1.9 million and save jobs, according to Manzi.
May said police union members voted 49-4 in April not to take another pay cut.
"The patrol officers of this city are currently working under a voluntary 10-percent cut to our salary and benefits. This was agreed to last June to avoid a reduction in the number of officers. Yet here we are again, another year and facing an even larger deficit than last year," May said.
May said he has lived in Methuen for 14 years "and would like to continue to call it home for many more."
"But I'm afraid that the impact to the quality of life and a loss of so many officers will leave this city ill-equipped to properly handle the level of criminal activity a city of our size would expect to see," he said.
May urged residents and business owners to contact city councilors to voice opposition to the cuts.
Officials could raise taxes to avert some cuts. Manzi has not recommended that, but he hasn't ruled it out either.