Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

In 2017, the Mundelein Fire Department paid out over $800,000 in overtime wages, more than double the department’s overtime costs in 2014. When compared to other nearby Lake County fire departments and districts, Mundelein incurs significantly more overtime costs. Village officials are debating staffing structures at the fire department.

The village board on Feb. 26 voted 4-1 to reduce the number of lieutenant positions and plans to hire more firefighters. Budget workshops for the 2018-19 fiscal year will be held throughout April. During the meeting, the mayor showed the union’s eventual counter proposal that asked for across the board pay bumps and temporary pay hikes when firefighters fill in for lieutenants. 

Mundelein Professional Fire Fighters Local 4786 is challenging the plan to reduce the number of lieutenants. Union officers argue that the reduction creates safety issues. They said Mundelein’s planned staffing change doesn’t create more first responders firefighters, it simply rearranges the roles.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, reviews of the total amount of overtime paid out by the Mundelein Fire Department show $801,828 paid in overtime during 2017, $623,315 in 2016, $573,037 in 2015 and $354,508 in 2014.

Individually, two lieutenants earned more than $74,000 in overtime during 2017, two others earned more than $60,000, and the remaining two lieutenants earned more than $50,000. In contrast, one lieutenant earned $45,000 in overtime during 2014, while the rest earned $21,000 or less. Annual base pay for lieutenants ranges between $98,000 and $114,000, while Mundelein also contributes $25,753 per year to each employees’ pension and around $22,770 per year to each employees’ health insurance plan.

As for firefighter/paramedics, base pay ranges from $69,895 to $95,414 with similar pension and insurance contributions. Data shows firefighters with the most overtime in 2017 earned payouts of $62,000, $53,000, $46,000, $39,000, $33,000, and several in the $20,000 range. Firefighter overtime data from 2014 shows the top earner that year at $37,000, three in the $20,000 range, and the rest took home less.

Pioneer Press compared Mundelein’s base pay and overtime spending with that of the Countryside Fire Protection District, Grayslake Fire Protection District, Gurnee Fire Department, Highland Park Fire Department, and Libertyville Fire Department. All five agencies are responsible for roughly 30,000 residents, but each has its own distinct geography and response needs that prevent exact comparisons.

Mundelein’s fire department responded to 3,255 calls in 2017. The fire department has 33 employees which includes a receptionist who doesn’t respond to incidents. Officials officials said the change in staffing will result in one lieutenant per shift for a total of three, while a fourth lieutenant would do administrative work during the day and be available to substitute during vacations or when injuries occur. Currently, one lieutenant is at each of Mundelein’s two stations on every shift.

Organizational charts at the other six agencies reviewed shows a chief, at least one deputy chief, and each fire station staffing at least one lieutenant. Most of them show inspectors and public education officers who are also certified firefighters.

Libertyville has three stations that cover a downtown, industrial park, suburban neighborhoods, and unincorporated rural areas. They responded to 4,278 calls in 2016 and have 42 certified firefighters. They spent $312,700 in overtime in the 2016-17 fiscal year, $267,758 in 2015-16 and $235,277 in 2014-15. The top overtime earning employee in 2016-17 was given nearly $26,000. Another employee earned $18,000, while a few others were near $16,000. Most earned around $10,000 or less in overtime.

The Countryside Fire Protection District has two stations with 44 full-time and 35 part-time personnel. They cover the Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills, two business parks, suburban subdivisions, and more rural or spacious residential properties in unincorporated areas and the villages of Long Grove and Hawthorn Woods. Countryside responds to an average of 4,100 calls per year. They spent $334,394 in overtime during calendar year 2017, $288,764 in 2016, $376,238 in 2015 and $309,586 in 2014. The district has an insurance policy that repays portions of overtime funds spent on injuries. Countryside’s top overtime earner in 2017 received nearly $23,000, while others were at $22,000, $17,000, $16,000, and the rest at or below $11,000.

The Grayslake Fire Protection District has three stations that cover Grayslake, Wildwood, Gages Lake, Third Lake, portions of the Round Lake communities, and Fremont Township. They responded to 3,996 calls in 2016 and have 41 full-time and 30 part-time personnel. Grayslake spent $275,747 in overtime during 2017, $324,533 in 2016, $235,496 in 2015, and $213,596 in 2014. The district did not respond to requests for individual employees’ overtime earnings.

Highland Park has three stations with 48 personnel. They responded to 5,146 calls in 2016 and they are contracted by the city of Highwood. They spent $281,743 in overtime during 2017, $220,426 in 2016, $267,022 in 2015, and $274,065 in 2014. Leading overtime earners included one person at approximately $17,000, two at around $15,000, two at $14,000, one at $13,000, one at $12,000, two at 10,000, and the rest at or below $6,000.

Gurnee’s fire department is responsible for an area of about 30,000 residents which includes Six Flags Great America and Gurnee Mills. They are under contract to cover other districts and municipalities. Its 6,220 calls in 2016 makes the response number much higher than Mundelein. However Gurnee only spent $126,922 in overtime during 2017, $129,054 in 2016, and $164,656 in 2015.

Mundelein’s finance committee is scheduled for fiscal year 2018-19 budget workshops on April 2 and April 9, in which fire department staffing will be among the topics. A vote to formally adopt a budget is scheduled for April 23.

thanks Dan

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