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Firefighter Overtime Pay Is Almost $9 Million

Monday, December 27, 2010

 

The cost of overtime pay in the Providence Fire Department grew about $1 million over a two year period, approaching nearly $9 million in the last fiscal year. Other than salaries, overtime is the single largest payroll expense in the Fire Department, with the average firefighter making about $20,000 in overtime this year.

“When you have an $8 million budget for overtime, it certainly is a cause for concern,” Fire Chief George Farrell told GoLocalProv.

In 2008, overtime for firefighters cost $7.9 million, according to a WPRI-12 report. By 2010, it had jumped to $8.8 million, according to a GoLocalProv review of city payroll records.

Vacancies result in high overtime costs

A number of factors drive overtime costs—such as how many firefighters are out on sick leave, recovering from injuries, or taking a vacation. But one of the main reasons overtime is at a high is the large number of vacancies that have remained unfilled, according to Fire Department officials.

Not counting office and administrative positions, the city currently has about 390 active firefighters and roughly 35 to 40 vacancies, according to estimates Farrell provided to GoLocalProv. Although overtime costs are on the rise, Farrell said there is a “break point” where it is cheaper to have firefighters work overtime rather than hire a new firefighter. (Farrell is pictured at right.)

Paul Doughty, president of the Local 799 of the International Association of Firefighters, agreed. “The last two directors of administration—John Simmons and Rich Kerbel—they’ve made the conscious decision to de-staff the Fire Department in terms of employees because it’s cheaper to pay time and a half instead of base salary plus benefits,” Doughty said.

For a few, amount of overtime equals their salaries

As a result, the total pay of many firefighters is substantially higher than it otherwise would be. For example, the highest paid firefighter in terms of overtime was Battalion Chief Joseph R. Desmarais, who earned $77,781 in overtime—almost as much as his salary of $81,463. The second highest overtime pay went to Capt. Vincent D’Ambra. He pulled in $77,152 in overtime—more than his current salary of $64,405.

The average overtime pay was $21,000 and nearly 400 Fire Department employees earned at least $10,000 or more in overtime in 2010, according to city records.

Extra pay has its downsides

While some firefighters benefit from the extra pay, Doughty said all that extra work comes at a cost. “They’d welcome the extra pay, if they didn’t have to be ordered,” Doughty told GoLocalProv. “There’s frequently times when you’re ordered to stay when you don’t want to.”

That disrupts the personal lives of his members and takes time away from their families. “It’s not a great way to live and there’s no way to predict when it will happen,” he said.

When GoLocalProv asked Mayor-elect Angel Taveras’ office if the rising cost of overtime was a concern, a spokeswoman responded that the incoming administration would consider a range of ways to cut the budget. “Upon taking office, Mayor-elect Taveras will be looking at cost savings measures across the entire City budget,” said Melissa Withers, the incoming communications director. “Running a fiscally responsible administration is, and will remain, a top priority.”
 

 

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Comments:

chris bergsten

To George Farrell: consider your health challenges, your family, your future and the stress inflicted upon you by Doughty and the union attack dogs, RETIRE. It's not worth it..you have done it all..no need to let them turn on you full force...the rank & file will never be happy..never..why bother?

Tom Martin

This is the part of city government that has to change - someone has to manage the city of providence's budget professionally.

Pam Thomas

Who is it that decrees how many fire fighters each town, including providence, must have? Is it simply each contract? I am certain in the future we will not be able to afford to staff as highly in any town as we are now.

Max Diesel

It would have been nice to see what overtime system they use. Usually in a well designed system, the higher in rank, the less available overtime. This results in lower overtime costs and overtime going to those that need it more.

Gary Arnold

Enough already, there has to be a reckoning on all public service organizations and old contracts thrown out and new ones current with today's economic times put in place.
We can not allow people to give themselves a planned boast in pay because of bad contracts. These are jobs, that should be paid for by private work rules not politically corrupt agreements.
Plenty of quality people that would gladly take on these jobs and improve performance without asking for more. The unions have to go, they are not for the good of the community only selfserving greed.




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