DETROIT (AP) — Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick on Wednesday announced plans to cut more than 900 city jobs and eliminate 24-hour bus service as part of an effort to head off a looming $230 million deficit.

Under the mayor’s plan, 686 employees will be laid off effective March 4, and 237 vacant positions will not be filled. The cuts will not affect firefighters, police officers or EMS personnel, he said.

Kilpatrick did not specify where the cuts would come from, except to say 140 bus employees, mostly drivers, would be laid off and 66 vacant positions in the transportation department would not be filled.

In his televised address, Kilpatrick also said he was “leading by example” by cutting his own salary and those of his appointees by 10 percent. He said he would also ask City Council to approve a 10- percent cut for nonunion employees and to trim its own budget.

“Since the 1960s, the city has at times ignored the writing on the wall and believed that if we just wait one more year, things will improve, federal dollars will come, the balance sheet will get better,” said Kilpatrick, who is facing an election this year. “But 40 years of red ink have proven that’s a financial fairy tale.”

Kilpatrick said his administration would ask vendors that it does business with for contract concessions of 5 percent to 10 percent.

As of July 1, city-owned vehicles assigned to mayoral appointees and many other employees will be eliminated. Kilpatrick spokesman Howard Hughey said the number of such vehicles is in the hundreds.

Kilpatrick said he also is asking unions to accept a wage cut of 10 percent in the form of “days off without pay.” Under the program, workers would be paid for only 36 hours, but overtime would only kick in after 40 hours.

Kilpatrick said the plan would save jobs.

But John Riehl, president of AFSCME Local 207, which represents 1,100 city workers, primarily in the water department, said his members would vote no on any contract that included such a plan.

“The mayor’s plan is a slap at the face of Detroit,” Riehl said.

Those who rely on city bus service also will be affected under the mayor’s plan.

Kilpatrick said buses would no longer run 24 hours, but he did not specify blackout times, saying public hearings would be held before changes are announced.

Patty Fedewa, a board member of Transportation Riders United, said the cuts in bus service would keep people from getting to jobs and thus further bring down the city’s economic health.

“People need to travel 24 hours a day in a modern society,” she said.

Fedewa said the transportation department could be made more efficient without an abbreviated schedule and should take advantage of more federal mass transit funds.

Kilpatrick’s office is forecasting a $230 million shortfall for the fiscal year beginning July 1. But City Council’s fiscal analyst, Irvin Corley Jr., said the hole is even deeper.

Corley is forecasting a $274 million deficit through the 2005-06 fiscal year, including a $57 million shortfall for the current year and an estimated $90 million deficit for last year. If City Council fails to approve a pension bond proposal before it, the deficit next year will jump to $354 million, he said.

Corley said the city would need to lay off 2,300 employees to balance the budget.

Kilpatrick blames Detroit’s financial woes in large part on a city government that became bloated under previous administrations. From 1992 to 2001, the number of people on the payroll increased by 3,000 to about 21,000, even as Detroit’s population continued its decades-long decline. Meanwhile, fewer residents have meant less tax revenue, even as health care and pension costs have risen.

City Council member and mayoral candidate Sharon McPhail said Kilpatrick is responsible for the current crisis because he failed to take timely action.

Many of Kilpatrick’s proposed cuts require approval from City Council, and officials from Kilpatrick’s administration were to meet with the council today.

 

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