Petersburg residents express concerns over proposed fire department, school cuts

PETERSBURG, Va. -- More than a dozen Petersburg residents spent their Labor Day holiday trying to figure out how to help the city deal with the city’s $12 million budget deficit.

The meeting comes one day before a public hearing where City Council will vote on amendments to the city's current adopted budget.

The group of concerned residents and three city council members met to explore ways to avoid deep cuts to the fire department and Petersburg city schools.

During a recent special council meeting, a consulting group hired by the city recommended numerous cuts, including the closure of one of the city's four fire houses and a reduction in school funding by $4 million.

Petersburg Fire 4

Monday, residents discussed alternatives including proposed tax increases on lodging, meals, cigarettes, personal property taxes and solid waste.

Petersburg residents like Barb Rudolph implored the council members not to cut $4 million from public education.

“There's a lot of opportunity for consolidating. Improving technology and reducing our reliance on administrative staff. Maybe we need to get away from this antiquated staff models and various things like that,” Rudolph said.

“I'm passionate about the schools, passionate about young families wanting to come here. That's what's important. Schools and public safety that's was going to make the city thrive,” said another resident.

Most citizens at Monday's meeting also voiced big concerns over a possible shut down one fire station and eliminating more than a dozen firefighter positions.

Harry Baird, who is a former Petersburg firefighter, says he is very concerned about what a loss of first responders would do to the city.

Petersburg meeting

"The emergency crews run a crushing call load of about 6,000 to 9,000 calls per year. If you do the math that's a call every hour and a half around the clock, 24/7, 365, seven days a week," said Baird. "Public Safety is critical to any community, especially in Petersburg."

Pertersburg Councilman Brian Moore said Monday’s meeting helped as most residents shared a concern over possible public safety cuts.

“We heard a resounding theme of people not wanting us to cut Public Safety,” he said. “So we are going to have go through everything and see what we can balance that with... We are working hard to get those things done.

Petersburg residents will be able to make their voices heard during a public meeting Tuesday, where council members will vote on proposed budget cuts.