Q & A: Rochester Firefighter Overtime

Here is a fair question posed by Cindy Maves.  I am not sure that it is related, but I asked some similar questions during budget negotiations.

 

Dear Council,
A member of our City Study group has brought the following to our attention.
The City Council of Minneapolis has been public about threatening to fire their fire chief if he is not willing to control overtime in his budget proposal.  https://www.mndaily.com/2011/11/15/city-council-fire-department-butt-heads-1-million-overtime-pay
He has 420 employees and his proposed overtime is $1M or $2381 per employee.
The Rochester 2012 budget shows the Rochester Fire Dept. is budgeting over $436,000 for 111 total Fire Department employees or $3927 per employee.
Could you please let us know what actions are being taken to reduce this overtime and if the RFD chief has been directed to address this situation.
Respectfully
Cindy Maves
One point that I would add is that the Minneapolis case was more about the high correlation of overtime to nice summer weekends.  Ours has come from a surge in retirements and the resulting training.  Here is a response from Fire Chief Greg Martin.

Council Members Hruska and Wojcik,

Thanks for the question and support.  Council Member Staver forwarded the Tea Party question to me earlier.  Below is my background.  In addition, a couple of other thoughts…

  1. We have a long history( at least since May of 2008) of watching the budget closely.  We finished 2010 about $400K under budget.   It looks like we might make budget, even given our overtime challenges, this year or be slightly under.  I am actually proud that we were able to provide service with about 10% of our positions temporarily vacant.
  2. Also, with vacancies, we do save the health insurance costs of about $17K an employee (my guess based on family coverage) This year alone that would have been in the neighborhood of $170k
  3. Also, included in the overtime is Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime.  I would guesstimate that this year $100K of our overtime is FLSA.  This is overtime for hours worked in excess of FLSA allowance for firefighters of 53 hours a week.  RFD works a 56 hour week.  Since we pay them a flat biweekly amount, the additional 3 hours is not time and a half but only half. (Hope this makes sense)  This is a huge savings and a very efficient way to staff.  Many departments have a lower hourly work week that results in the necessity to hire more employees to staff a 24/7 operation.  It  does not completely eliminate FLSA overtime however.  FLSA is more complex than this but that is the basic overview. 
  4. Also included in this overtime, is our emergency call back overtime.  We utilize this for 2nd alarm or greater fires to staff stations while the on duty resources are at a major incident.  Thankfully, we have had  a much quieter year in that regard compared to 2010. 
  5. Given FLSA law and the fact that we run a 24/7  emergency response organization, it would be impossible to completely eliminate overtime. 
  6. Let me know if you would like additional information.

Fire Chief Greg K. Martin

Rochester Fire Department

City Hall Room 10

201 4th Street SE

Rochester, MN  55904

507.328.2800

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