by Pam Zubeck
For 2010 and 2011 there were a number of factors that contributed to the sharp increase in overtime. First, there was the decision just prior to those years (2008-2009 timeframe) to purposely decrease the number of uniformed personnel as the leadership at that time felt that we could staff the organization with fewer people (decrease FTEs and save taxpayer dollars). Second, the economic downturn forced us to reduce FTEs further. This was partially accomplished by offering voluntary retirement incentives in 2009 and 2010. Also in 2010, we cross-staffed Haz Mat 14 and Engine 14 (four firefighters per day were reduced). In addition, actually, 2010 and 2011 were the two highest years for vacancies that we've had in those seven years with FD records showing 16 vacancies (2010) and 27 vacancies (2011). The difference in those numbers (yours and ours) are that your numbers show the vacancies to start the calendar year and our numbers are the highest total number of vacancies later in the year (before we hired new firefighters). As I mentioned, we approach our authorized strength when we hire new firefighters and then vacancies accrue throughout the year after that due to retirements and other departures. Finally, in 2010, we added Squad 8 (a two-firefighter medical squad) that required more staffing. All those items caused us to have to use more overtime to accomplish our minimum daily staffing.The City Auditor's Office reported on overtime in June, but didn't pass judgment on the practice.