(09/14/12) - The declining tax base in Genesee County is forcing more budget cuts.
Starting Oct. 1, there will likely be 12 fewer paramedics on the road.
The county's paramedic program is funded by a millage tied to property values. Those values are dropping drastically. Now, a third of the county paramedics will transition into other positions.
Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell is responding to the latest proposed county budget that calls for the elimination of 12 paramedics.
"I can't take anymore cuts, my people are in danger around here," he said. "In addition to those 12, I lost three in the jail, so there's a total of 15 people."
Pickell says while those 15 will likely transition into other positions due to attrition, he is already in desperate need of more employees. His department is down about 65 people from five years ago.
"I worry about jail breaks, I worry about my corrections deputies being overtaken. I worry every time we go outside this courthouse with our reduced staff, who are vulnerable," he said.
The Sheriff says he hopes the cuts don't affect response times. His paramedics average around six minutes right now.
Genesee County resident Kimberly Warshol-Smith knows seconds count in emergencies.
"My husband just recently had a heart attack two weeks ago. He's 46 years old and had it not been for the responders, he would of died before he got to the hospital," she said.
These proposed cuts come as the Sheriff is working to reopen Flint's lockup with state money.
He says some of the 12 paramedics might wind up working there.
"I cannot use any of that $2 million from the governor for anything but the Flint city lockup and I spent the last few days interviewing candidates for that," he said.
Genesee County Commissioners still have to formally adopt the proposed budget by the start of the new fiscal year on Oct.1.
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