Lorain weighs lower retirement age for police, firefighters to cut budget

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LORAIN, Ohio-- The city of Lorain is facing a fiscal emergency and must cut about $3.5 million from its operating budget by March 31, but one suggestion has police and firefighters upset.

Mayor Chase Ritenauer’s administration proposed mandating a retirement age of 57 for officers and firefighters.

The ordinances were scheduled to be presented to council Monday night, but were pulled from the agenda after backlash from safety forces; dozens of whom crowded into city hall Monday night for the council meeting.

“The chief already cut $750,000 from his budget,” said Kyle Gelenius, FOP Lorain Lodge No. 3 President.

Gelenius said the sudden change would prevent multiple officers from collecting a pension and increase emergency response times.

“We’ve had an increase in shootings in the city and heroin epidemic is out of control.”

International Association of Fire Fighters Local 267 President Ken Shawver called the move “discriminatory” and said they’d be willing to work with the city if the city reciprocated.

“And it has to start with administration,” Shawver said.

Mayor Ritenauer told FOS 8 News the proposed ordinances came from studying other cities and their age limits; with the idea that layoffs would impact younger officers with “mortgages and families.”

However, the mayor said this was only one proposal and they’re open to other suggestions.

Lorain has lost hundreds of steel industry jobs this year and must either find a new revenue stream or make some difficult decisions. The mayor said that could mean closing city hall or eliminating some departments.

“I try to be pragmatic,” Ritenauer said, “what can we do to move needle forward to get the budget balanced?”

But some council members said they’ve been trying to offer solutions in recent months and have been largely ignored.

Councilwoman Mary Springowski said the mere suggestion of “reciprocity” or reducing salaries to meet the current economic climate has been met with “crickets.. It’s complete silence.”

There was no public comment at Monday's meeting, but a committee hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. and the community will be able to voice their concerns.

Councilman Angel Arroyo hopes people will attend because he says, “We’re going to have to find new ways to balance the budget.”

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