Elgin fire, police paid $4.14 million in 2015 overtime

Elgin's fire and police departments spent more in overtime in 2015 than in the previous three and five years, respectively, exceeding their budgets by a combined $700,000.

The total for both departments was $4.14 million. City officials attributed that to an unusual combination of factors such as employees retiring and being off work due to injuries and illnesses.

The police department was down seven officers from March to October, Cmdr. Ana Lalley said. After new hires, there were 182 officers by the end of the year. "We're down $100,000 in overtime so far this year compared to last year," she said.

Fire Chief John Fahy said the department, which numbers about 130 firefighters, had 15 employees out injured or on extended illness last year. "That includes hip replacements, so you're off for a long time," he said. So far in 2016 the department is below budget for overtime, he said.

Other factors are the timing of vacations and calls for service that come in at the end of a shift, Fahy and Lalley said. There is rarely a lack of volunteers, and mandated overtime is extremely rare, they said.

The city adopted a "low manning, high overtime" model years ago to save on costs, Fahy said.

Elgin Chief Financial Officer Debra Nawrocki said it's 15 percent less expensive to pay for fire overtime because employees' costs aren't just salaries but also pensions and benefits. "That's the math. The decision is up to others," she said.

Police overtime

The police department spent $2.425 million in overtime in 2015, or $385,500 over budget, and the highest total since at least 2011, according to city data. Overtime costs had pretty much stayed flat since 2012.

Overtime expenses related to special assignments - such as working crowd control at Grand Victoria Casino concerts and working as part of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task forces - largely are reimbursed to the city, Lalley said. The department received $308,000 in reimbursements last year. The police didn't get some state traffic grant money last year, Lalley said.

Officer Jason Morales worked the most overtime with 1,308 hours, earning $75,000 over his base salary of nearly $93,900. Morales did not respond to a request for comment.

Cmdr. Al Young worked 617 hours of overtime last year, when he was a lieutenant and earned nearly $40,000 extra. "You can work (overtime) on your off day, or even after your shift ends, like if you're working at the movie theater (for crowd control)," he said. "I always enjoyed it."

Fire overtime

The fire department spent $1.715 million in overtime in 2015, or $315,200 over budget, according to city data. That's the highest total amount since 2013, after which overtime costs had steadily decreased.

Some overtime costs are built into firefighters' schedules, Fahy said.

Firefighters work for 24 hours, followed by 48 hours off, and get a so-called "Kelly Day," or a day off, every ninth day, Fahy said. That yields a 50-hour workweek, which means 10 hours are paid as overtime. Also, when someone is off on a Kelly Day, someone else has to cover, or equipment has to be taken out of service.

Fire Capt. Hollis Miller worked the most "straight" overtime last year, or 964 hours, to cover for others being off due to injury and Kelly Days. Like many others, he also earned overtime for training and extra administrative assignments, altogether working 1,322 overtime hours and earning nearly $84,000 over his $121,000 salary.

Miller did not respond to a request for comment.

The Elgin Police Department spent $2.425 million in overtime in 2015, which was $385,500 over budget, and the highest total amount since at least 2011. Daily Herald file photo

Overtime totals in 2015

Police department: Spent $2.425 million in overtime.

Top overtime earner: Officer Jason Morales made $75,188 in overtime, with total $169,080 compensation for the year.

Fire department: Spent $1.715 million in overtime.

Top overtime earner: Capt. Hollis Miller made $83,997 in overtime, with total $205,187 compensation for the year.

SOURCE: City of Elgin

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