12 fire academy students won't graduate

May 14, 2009 12:07:57 AM PDT
If you live, work, or even visit Oakland, changes are coming that you are likely to notice. Dozens of police officers might be laid off and newly recruited firefighters have already gotten the bad news.

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Twelve people in Oakland's Fire Training Academy were told they won't become firefighters after all, as a part of the city's efforts to bridge an unprecedented $83 million budget deficit.

"Getting this far and not being able to finish and not being graduated and becoming members of the fire department, I would imagine they're devastated," says Oakland Dep. Chief James Edwards.

Oakland police could also see cuts. The mayor has proposed laying off as many as 140 officers. All of this is being hammered out at city hall where department heads laid out their plans on how they'll be cutting their respective budgets.

The director of the library says it can save over $800,000 by reducing the number of days most branches are open from six days a week to five.

"It's a heartbreak because libraries are busier than they've ever been in the history of libraries. People need a place to study, people need computers," says library director Carmen Martinez.

But Oakland also needs to balance its budget, which is why every department is being asked to tighten its belt. Council members say they'll try their best to preserve as many police jobs as they can, but say it's going to be tough.

"If you just look at the numbers, there doesn't seem to be any way to avoid it because the police department is such a large percentage of our general fund," says Councilmember Pat Kernighan.

As for Oakland residents, some are angry at city leaders, others understanding.

"If it's not their fault, at least they would know that this was coming down the pike before it's a crisis," says Oakland resident Pat Tong.

"It's like any business as revenue goes down, something's got to give," says Oakland resident Jim Austin.

City council members will hold two more budget hearings until they're forced to make a final decision on the proposed cuts in June.

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