Excerpts from the DailyHerald.com:

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.

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 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.

 thanks Dan

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