- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 4, 2014

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - Fewer police and firefighters will be on the job in Waterloo under a plan approved by the City Council.

The council voted 4-3 Monday night to eliminate three police officer and three firefighter positions by not filling vacancies pending due to retirements, according to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (http://bit.ly/1g79y18 ).

The reductions were part of a budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that will lower Waterloo’s overall tax collections by 1.7 percent.

“It’s a bold and decisive action,” said Councilman Tom Lind, who supported the reductions. “That’s what we were elected to do.”

Councilman Steve Schmitt also voted for the budget, calling it a “golden opportunity” to reduce the number of employees without layoffs. He said the move wouldn’t hurt the city’s ability to provide public safety services.

“I don’t think the world is going to come apart and we’re going to turn back into Tombstone,” Schmitt said.

Schmitt said the reductions were needed at a time when many Waterloo residents were struggling to get by, especially those relying on pensions and Social Security.

“What I hear is people are now getting to the point where they have to start choosing between putting food on the table, buying their medicine or paying their property taxes,” he said.

But Councilman Pat Morrissey, who opposed the job cuts, called them “irresponsible and . an uncalled for risk.”

Waterloo’s budget will cut overall property taxes by $709,000. Most of that will come from $700,000 in state property tax relief for commercial and industrial property owners.

The city’s tax rate will rise, but assessed values dropped for more than half of Waterloo’s houses, so those property owners will see little increase. Commercial and industrial taxpayers will see a 2.5 percent cut.

Several residents spoke out against the public safety cuts, including Leon Mosley, a neighborhood leader. Mosley said he was more worried about safety than taxes.

“If it means raising my taxes, so be it, because what they have given us is security, safety and the feeling of safety in the community,” he said.

But others noted that nearby communities have lower taxes, including the adjacent city of Cedar Falls.

Gale Shinkle, president of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Board of Realtors, said Waterloo’s taxes are prompting some people to choose to live elsewhere.

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