Thursday, July 27, 2000

Overtime strains Covington budget

Fire and police account for most of $2.1M expense

By Jeff Carlton
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — After paying out $2.1 million in overtime pay for the fiscal year that ended June 30, the city is looking for ways to reduce those hours.

        “Probably one of the most discussed items every year is how to reduce overtime expenses,” said Bob Due, the city finance director. “We are not utilizing our resources in the best way.”

        The city paid $600,000 more than the $1.5 million it budgeted for overtime in 1999-2000, Mr. Due said. The city's overtime expenses increased 11.3 percent over the $1.9 million paid out in 1998-1999.

        About 99 percent of the overtime pay went to firefighters, police officers, dispatchers and employees in the public works department, Mr. Due said.

        Overtime pay to dispatchers increased by 33.8 percent from the previous fiscal year, the biggest increase of any department, Mr. Due said. The city normally employs 18 dispatchers, but had trouble filling two of those positions for most of the year.

        So, to keep the vital emergency services communications center running, the remaining dispatchers worked overtime.

        Firefighters and police officers also collected more overtime pay in 1999-2000 than in the previous year. Overtime pay to the public works department decreased from the previous year, Mr. Due said.

        Overtime pay to city workers for 1999-2000 broke down like this: fire department, $961,065; police department, $791,992; dispatch, $229,848; and public works, $112,168.

        “Even if overtime increased by 10 percent every year, it would still be increasing at a greater rate than all other expenses,” he said. “We need to get away from finger pointing and take a comprehensive look at ways to cut back in the departments.”

        Overtime expenses in the police department raised eyebrows after it was revealed that a retiring sergeant's overtime pay last year was more than his base salary.

        With longevity pay and normal overtime hours, the sergeant should have made about $55,000 in 1999, Mr. Due said. But the sergeant worked so much overtime that he earned more than $90,000.

        He ended up being the city's highest-paid employee, making more than the city manager and the police chief.

        The sergeant's superiors have accounted for all of the overtime hours and do not suspect him of fraud, Mr. Due said.

        “It's a fairly unusual situation where someone has more earnings in overtime than in base pay,” Mr. Due said.


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