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updated: 8/27/2012 11:38 AM

Buffalo Grove police, fire strugle with overtime costs

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  • Buffalo Grove Fire Chief Terry Vavra, shown meeting with residents in 2010, and his counterpart in the police department, Chief Steve Balinski, told village trustees this month they're struggling to maintain overtime costs in the face of personnel reductions.

      Buffalo Grove Fire Chief Terry Vavra, shown meeting with residents in 2010, and his counterpart in the police department, Chief Steve Balinski, told village trustees this month they're struggling to maintain overtime costs in the face of personnel reductions.
    Daily Herald File Photo by Steve Zalusky/szalusky@

 

Recent declines in personnel have Buffalo Grove police and fire leaders struggling to maintain levels of service without dipping deep into overtime budgets and asking for more sacrifice from officers and firefighters, officials say.

Buffalo Grove's police and fire chiefs discussed their attempts to keep their overtime budgets in check during a meeting of the village board earlier this month. Illness, injuries and early retirements have taken their toll on overtime budgets, they said.

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Police Chief Steve Balinski said his department started 2012 with 50 officers assigned to the patrol division. Now the department operates with 43 officers, and was at 40 last month.

"Twenty percent of our manpower in patrol was below the authorized staffing levels," he said.

Although Balinski anticipates finishing the year $50,000 to $60,000 under the department's total $11 million budget, he believes the $340,000 overtime budget will be exceeded.

The good news, he said, is that the department is expecting new hires this year. Until then, Balinski's strategy to "stop the bleeding" and minimize overtime impact is to adjust officer schedules on all three shifts.

The department also is experimenting with some creative solutions. At the upcoming Buffalo Grove Days, for example, the department will be using auxiliary deputies from the Lake County Sheriff's Department to help with traffic control.

A lot of the in-house adjustments, Balinski added, requires cooperation between officers and command staff.

Fire Chief Terrence Vavra told the board his department is down six people, though he hopes to see those six replaced toward the end of the year.

The overtime budget was at a pace early in the year to reach $750,000, more than twice the $357,000 allotted.

As a result, Vavra said, the department met with the firefighters union and said, "We're in a bind here. We're down people. If you don't need to take time off, let's try not to take it now."

"We got some really good buy in from that," he said, noting that the department has received $56,000 in donated time.

Village Manager Dane Bragg he appreciates the time spent by the police and fire chiefs on the issue.

"We have spent a fair amount of time hand wringing at the village hall about it and trying to make sure that we were managing those overtime costs as best as we can," he said.

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