SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)—The San Francisco Fire Department is asking the Board of Supervisors to allow it to spend another $4 million on overtime pay for this fiscal year that has little more than two months to go. This comes after the department has already spent the $38 million in overtime that had been budgeted.
Departments have done this before where it’s easier to pay the OT than to hire new firefighters. Lately, there haven’t been any major catastrophic events or earthquakes emergencies.
So, this is a practice incorporated not only in San Francisco, but all across California where these departments and cities, faced with the short-term budget crunch that actually turned out to be much longer over the years; coupled with the political clout of the firefighter’s union (mandatory staffing), basically get themselves in a bind where they need firefighters in the station, but don’t have money for new classes.
But the catch with that is, no matter how you look at it $38 million isn’t cheap. Also the OT doesn’t go toward their pensions. We have reported of some incredible cash outs.
For instance if a firefighter gets OT, when they were cashing out towards on their retirement, they could change it into comp time and get paid for being a lieutenant or a captain. That’s why we had seen $200,000 payouts for fire department retirees.
Another interesting factor that needs to be considered is the strain the OT is taking on the department. At first it started out as voluntary, but now it’s mandatory and it’s not letting up. Even firefighters who rake in the money this way are starting to complain about it.
(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)