After hiring 50 police officers in June, Redd did not rule out the possibility of laying off both police officers and firefighters.
"Everything is on the table, but public safety is very important to a city such as Camden," she said. The city is considered one of the most dangerous in the country.
The cuts in each department will be on top of the one-day-a-week furloughs Redd imposed this spring on nonuniformed employees and the loss of 23 workers laid off in 2008.
The budget constraints mean $7.5 million must be gutted from the fire department, which has not hired in about four years. And with restrictions on overtime, as many as four of the department's 11 companies are already closed at a time, according to Kenneth Chambers, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters in Camden.
"The fire service in the city of Camden is so depleted, it's a shame the citizens don't realize it," he said. "Why is a Camden resident's life worth less than everybody else's? Why is Camden getting inadequate fire service?"
During the last fire in the city, three firefighters were injured, he said, in part due to lack of manpower. One firefighter injured his shoulder carrying equipment that would normally require two people.
Chambers says Camden needs to do a better job applying for grants that are geared to police and fire in distressed cities.
The $28 million deficit stems from a severe drop in state aid, which has typically sustained Camden's budget.
Camden is expecting $46.5 million from two state funds that last year provided $54.1 million, Redd said. A third pot of discretionary state aid has shrunk so much that Camden is applying for just $51 million after receiving $71 million in the 2010 fiscal year.
Gov. Christie has made national headlines for his deep budget cuts, and in doling out state aid to the most impoverished municipalities he is requiring mayors to make their own cuts in labor costs.
The Trenton mayor, for example, is reportedly planning to lay off nearly a third of the police officers.
In Camden, it has become something of a tradition to wait on last-minute bailouts from Trenton to close budget deficits. That has long angered politicians and residents in wealthier parts of the state who indirectly fund Camden through their property taxes.
"Because of some of the challenges of the past, or because of some of the perceptions of the past, we have to be fiscally prudent," Redd said.
Redd has already slashed more than two-thirds of the funding for the library system, meaning all three of the city branches could close. Redd said options to save the library were under discussion.
Redd stressed that beyond cuts, she's also looking for revenue-generating ideas in a city that only collects $20 million annually in property taxes and Payments in Lieu of Taxes. The city could raise taxes, but that would not generate enough revenue because of state property tax caps, she said.
In the worst case scenario, the Christie administration might not grant Camden's request for the full $51 million. That would mean more cuts.
"We have inherited enormous challenges," Redd said, echoing comments made by both Republican Christie and Democratic President Obama.
Contact staff writer Matt Katz at 856-779-3919 or firstname.lastname@example.org.