Pittsburgh Suburb Runs Out of Money to Pay Police
McKEESPORT, Pa. (AP) _ The mayor of this Pittsburgh suburb said nearly half of the 50-member police force would lose their jobs Sunday despite a community effort to raise $90,000 to pay their salaries.
Donations may allow officials to call back several officers, but only for a short time, Mayor Louis Washowich said Friday.
Washowich has said he will lay off 21 officers because the city can’t afford 4 to 4 1/2 percent wage increases recently awarded to the department by state arbitrators.
The city’s volunteer ambulance company began a fund-raising effort Thursday with a $15,000 gift, and residents added about $300 through countertop donation cans.
A restaurant planned to contribute Sunday’s proceeds, or $5,000 to $7,000, Eat ’n Park manager Fred Balistreri said Friday.
Equibank employees planned to canvass McKeesport for donations, and the company promised to match money raised during the coming week, up to $50,000.
Some McKeesport churches will take up special donations for the police or allow solicitations for donations outside their buildings, said Walt Patterson, chief of operations for the McKeesport Emergency Medical Services. He said he believed the $90,000 could be raised by Friday.
Washowich estimated that figure as the savings to the city of laying off 24 officers for three months. But he said the fund-raising was not a long-term solution because wage increases and benefits for the police will cost $110,000 to $120,000 this year and $225,000 next year.
Police officer Patrick Carloss, who is among those facing layoffs, said the $15,000 alone would be enough to keep officers working for another two weeks.
He said he was surprised and angered by the mayor’s decision to proceed with layoffs as planned.
″It’s a total slap in the face of the citizens of McKeesport,″ said Carloss, who has represented police in contract negotiations. ″These people are going out of their way to save the police.″
He also said he believes Washowich wants to punish the police for going to arbitration. Washowich, however, said he based his decision solely on the need to balance the city’s budget.