Police, Fire, Ambulance Overtime Tops $600K for Mississippi City

July 18, 2013

Overtime to firefighter, police officer and paramedics has cost the city of Vicksburg, Miss., $632,176 with three months remaining in the 2013 fiscal year.

The fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

Accounting Department Director Doug Whittington tells the Vicksburg Post that overtime for the three departments has exceeded that paid in fiscal year 2012.

He said the fire department has so far spent $368,885 in overtime, about $26,685 more than the $342,200 it paid out in 2012.

Paramedics so far this fiscal year have been paid $180,855 in overtime. They were paid a total of $189,391 in overtime in fiscal 2012.

The police department so far this year has paid $82,436 in overtime. Officers were paid $119,868 in overtime in 2012, city records show.

None of the departments have a specific line item for overtime built into their personnel budgets, Whittington said.

“We have to address overtime, because it’s putting us over budget and we can’t end the fiscal quarter with a deficit,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “We can’t afford to run over.”

Fire Chief Charles Atkins said the bulk of his department’s overtime is the result of moving firefighters to fill in gaps caused by illness or vacation, or a shortage of manpower.

He said the department has 120 firefighters and 15 paramedics for three 24-hour shifts.

“We’re short about four paramedics,” he said. “Many of our firefighters are cross-trained as paramedics, so when I need to fill a spot on an ambulance, I call one of the firefighter-medics.”

Police Chief Walter Armstrong said he has 72 officers, adding the department has worked a total of 62 events this year, including parades, events such as Hit the Bricks and the Over the River Run and the Miss Mississippi Pageant for which the department provides traffic control and security. He said the department recorded 600 hours of overtime for the city’s sesquicentennial observance.

“When you have something like the (Miss Mississippi) pageant, you can’t tell the shift to not protect the city and come work the pageant,” he said. “You have to bring in extra people.”

Unless the three departments reduce spending, which includes overtime, all will have to find money to cover shortfalls, Whittington said. Most of the anticipated deficits will be made up using money in the department budgets that was not obligated or spent during the fiscal year, he said.

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