Posts Tagged Chicago FD overtime costs

Chicago Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

Chicago taxpayers spent nearly $210 million on police and fire overtime last year — and another $33.7 million on lump-sum payments to departing employees, most of them police officers. One retiring officer walked out the door with $276,053 for stockpiled compensatory time and another $9,236 for unused vacation days. Records show scores of other six-figure checks and hundreds of payments that topped $20,000.

In private industry, employees are routinely required to use comp time within a defined period of time. They are not allowed to accumulate a career’s worth of comp time and cash it out when they leave. City tradespeople and members of AFSCME get cash only for overtime. Their most recent contracts do not allow for comp time. Chicago police officers are exceptions to that rule.

Five months ago, the Chicago Police Department spent $67.6 million on overtime through the first six months of 2019 despite a 10-year high in staff and an all-time high in technology.

The mayor said she was angry and frustrated and planned to hold then-Police Supt. Eddie Johnson personally accountable for reining in an abuse that Chicago taxpayers can’t afford. Johnson is gone, fired for lying to the mayor about an  incident in mid-October.

The mayor’s attempt to put the police and fire departments on the hot seat about runaway overtime has not yet produced tangible results. Through Nov. 30, the city spent $131.2 million on police overtime, matching the 12-month total for the year before. The fire department spent $78.7 million through Nov. 30, a 16 percent increase from the 12-month total the year before and a more than sixfold increase from the $12.8 million spent on overtime in 2011.

A budget spokesperson said the spike was principally driven by 456 vacancies in the uniformed ranks and by minimum manning requirements in the firefighters’ contract that specifies at least five members are required on all apparatus and the number of existing companies which all must be maintained. The minimum manning requirement triggered the 1980 firefighters strike.  As of 2019, the CFD has eliminated the use of mandatory overtime that was once relied on to staff the five new ambulances recently added into service.

A police department spokesman said major structural changes have now been put in place in an effort to control overtime going forward. Police personnel finally started swiping in and out of work in September. Each commander is now given an overtime budget to manage. Every two weeks, that overtime spending is“audited within the Compstat process.


Chicago Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

Chicago has the largest number of women firefighters and working on ambulances of any city in the country, according to the fire commissioner, but they make up less than 10% of the department’s total personnel.

In a department that has long dealt with diversity issues, aldermen also pressed fire department officials to better address the under-representation of black and Latino firefighters, an annual complaint when officials come to city hall for their budget hearing.

Commissioner Richard Ford II called on aldermen to help get more minorities to take tests to get on the force.

“When we do our outreach for recruitment, we really don’t have control over who is coming in to take this test,” Ford said. “What I would like to do is work with the aldermen, work with (Department of Human Resources) to increase that list, and thereby increase the diversity.”

There are now 450 women working as firefighters or paramedics, compared with just 116 women in 2011, but the 4,700-member department is still more than 90% male.

The fire department is asking for $40 million for overtime in 2020, after budgeting $30 million this year. The department routinely runs past the budgeted overtime amount. In 2018, the overtime totaled $58.8 million.

Ford said the department isn’t hiring new firefighters quickly enough to keep up with attrition as people retire, requiring high overtime expenditures each year. He hopes a new hiring program being put in place will allow the city to fill vacancies more quickly. “As we reduce the amount of vacancies, we thereby reduce significantly the amount of overtime taking place,” he said.

Tags: , ,

CFD overtime drives push for new exam (more)

An article in the Chicago Sun-Times now addresses overtime costs by the fire department with alderman grilling CFD Fire Commissioner Santiago.

The Chicago Fire Department will spend $43 million on overtime this year — more than double the amount authorized — because of “legal issues” tied to past discrimination lawsuits that prevented the department from hiring firefighters, a top mayoral aide said Monday.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday that Chicago will hold its first firefighters entrance exam in eight years in 2014 amid runaway overtime that has gone from $13.5 million in 2011 to a projected $35.3 million in 2014. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2013 budget includes $20 million for Fire Department overtime. But Chicago Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago acknowledged Monday that actual overtime spending will be $43 million.

“There was a series of legal issues that the Fire Department had to work through with the Law Department that actually effectively stopped us from hiring. The city of Chicago could not hire firefighters,” said Santiago, on the hot seat at City Council budget hearings.

“We have resolved those issues. . . . Nov. 18, we will have 150 people at the academy to start attacking this overtime. We have a series of classes after that. As soon as one class gets to the halfway point, we will have another class [of] 150 people. And then, another class. This should be able to take care of all the vacancies that are there and any of the people who start to retire later on.”

Santiago projected that 245 firefighters will retire in 2013. Full strength — including uniformed and civilian employees — is roughly 5,100. The Fire Department currently has 4,700 employees.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) questioned why there wasn’t more pushback from the Fire Department, considering the minimum-staffing requirement that triggered the bitter 1980 firefighters strike. The firefighters contract requires that every piece of fire apparatus be staffed by at least five employees.

In marathon contract talks, Emanuel has insisted that “double houses” that include both engines and trucks be staffed by nine firefighters instead of 10. The Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 has strongly resisted the change.

“When you were having discussions with the Law Department, did anybody bring up the fact that you might have to do more overtime to make up for the loss of manpower? . . . Did anybody do a calculation of what that effect might be?” Waguespack said.

First Deputy Fire Commissioner Charles Stewart said no such calculation was done. But Santiago stressed that the alarm was sounded during “many meetings” with the Law Department and the Office of Budget and Management. “We constantly brought up the fact that we have a problem here. We can’t hire. We have people retiring. You’ve got to help us out. We have a hiring plan we put together and we could not implement it,” Santiago said.

“Many meetings were conducted. It was always brought up to them [that], ‘We need help somehow. We need to hire people or the overtime is going to go right through the ceiling,’ which it has.”

Waguespack persisted, wondering whether it was “mandatory not to hire” or optional. Stewart replied, “It was strongly recommended that, until the legal issues are resolved, that we not hire a class. We made sure they were aware of manning needs. But that was their recommendation we had to follow.”

Earlier this year, the City Council agreed to spend nearly $2 million — and $1.7 million more in legal fees — to compensate dozens of women denied firefighter jobs because of a discriminatory test of physical abilities that City Hall has now scrapped. Last year, Chicago borrowed the $78.4 million needed to compensate nearly 6,000 African-American would-be firefighters bypassed by the city’s discriminatory handling of a 1995 entrance exam. The borrowing compounded the cost of a settlement that was twice as high as anticipated.

The city had already agreed to hire 111 bypassed black firefighters. The cash damages went to about 5,900 others who never got that chance.

Older firefighters are not the only problem confronting the Fire Department. There’s also the issue of aging equipment.

The “desired” life span for fire engines and hook-and-ladders is six years. In Chicago, the average for both is just over 11 years. For fire trucks, the ideal life span is 7.5 years. In Chicago, the average age is 15 years. Ambulances are supposed to last 2.5 years but have been on the street in Chicago for 6.2 years.

The city expects to purchase 25 new ambulances this year and has “re-chassised” four others, Santiago said.

Also on Monday, Santiago reassured aldermen that the Fire Department is meeting state mandates by responding to fires in an average of 3 minutes and 35 seconds and to medical emergencies in 5 minutes and 5 seconds.

“We base that measure on how long it takes the first fire company to arrive after the alarm goes out,” the commissioner said.

In a recent report, Inspector General Joe Ferguson measured it differently, then accused the Fire Department of response times that fail to meet national standards.

That prompted Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) to put Santiago on notice.

“I want you to work with the inspector general to make sure that, when the next report comes out, the 9th Ward is not reflected as being last” in response times, Beale said.

“Even though we’re only talking seconds, when somebody’s life is on the line, seconds count. Do whatever you have to do to make sure that, if there’s a problem, it’s fixed. Obviously, there’s a problem with how we’re adding or subtracting these numbers. Fix this problem. Please do not come back next year with the 9th Ward being last.”

 thanks Dan

Tags: , , , ,

CFD overtime drives push for new exam

The Chicago Sun-Times has an article about the overtime costs for the Chicago Fire Department acting as the driving force to conduct an entrance exam.

Amid skyrocketing overtime in the Chicago Fire Department, the city will hold its first firefighters entrance exam in eight years in 2014, but not the way a former-firefighter-turned-alderman would like it. Ald. Nick Sposato (36th) said being a firefighter is a physical job, and candidates should be hired in the order of how they perform on the test of physical abilities, so long as they clear a pass-fail written test.

That’s the way it was done in 1978 and again in 1985, when Sposato took the exam, with no lawsuit filed after either one of those tests. Chicago’s first firefighters entrance exam since 2006 will be conducted differently. The written test will be pass-fail with passing candidates assigned a random number and called in that order as manpower is needed.

Hiring desperately is needed to get a handle on skyrocketing overtime in the Chicago Fire Department. It has gone from $13.5 million in 2011 to $20 million this year and is projected to reach $35.3 million in 2014. The precise number of vacancies was not known. Only after candidates arrive at the fire academy will physical fitness come into play. Would-be firefighters will be given a background check, a drug test and the test of physical abilities, all of them pass-fail. Those who pass all three will be offered spots in the next class of firefighters.

Sposato does not believe firefighters should be hired based on a “luck-of-the-draw” lottery. “Firefighting is a physical job. In 1978 and 1985, guys who wanted the job trained and worked hard, and those guys were called first. Guys who didn’t train or work out ever were called later down the road,”.

“I’d like to see guys ranked by physical ability. We’re giving you three months, six months, a year. You’re going to have to run up a flight of stairs, bench press, do whatever. Then, they rank you from that. That’s the better way.”

Sposato said he “went in cold” to the 1985 test of physical abilities and paid the price.

“I got called eight years after I took the test. I deserved that because I didn’t work out or train. Friends of mine who wanted it [more] and worked out and trained for three months, six months, a year. Bam. They were in the first group called,” he said.

The city’s reluctance to call candidates on the basis of their physical performance may have something to do with a costly settlement approved in September. Chicago spent nearly $2 million — and $1.7 million more in legal fees — to compensate dozens of women denied firefighter jobs because of a discriminatory test of physical abilities that City Hall has now scrapped.

thanks Dan

Tags: , ,