Parker: Wait for changes to take effect

By GABRIEL GOODWIN
Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK — As she returned to her seat on the horseshoe Tuesdeay after recovering from an undisclosed surgery, the emergency manager received a barrage of questions from one council member about the Fire Department’s overtime expenses.

Councilman Dennis Hayes questioned Emergency Manager Joyce Parker about why, in the first three months of the fiscal year, there haven’t been significant reductions in overtime expenses after promises made to the city after passing of the public safety millage.

“The fiscal year is not over,” Parker said in response to Hayes’ questions. “We are in the first quarter, so part of what is necessary is to allow time to see the reductions take place.”

Hayes said there was a decrease in overtime from August to September, but the departments’ costs are still significantly higher than the budget allows. He said the costs for overtime in January 2013 and September 2013 were almost identical even after minimums were eliminated in July with the new contracts.

“In January, we had overtime costs in the Fire Department of $24,153, and now overtime for September is reported as $23,471,” he said. “We eliminated minimums in July, which presumably eliminated much, if not all, of the basis for overtime. Yet, what we find is a fairly similar number this September. That’s a problem for me.”

The budget was created with a small potion of it allocated to the Police and Fire departments’ overtime, Parker said, because their contracts were not final.

The firefighters’ vacation schedule was already in place before the contracts were finalized, she said, so when the contract became final, they moved forward with that schedule and the necessary overtime was used to provide consistent service to residents.

“This would cause the actual overtime costs to seem skewed,” she said, “It would have been difficult to project what amount should be allocated to overtime until those contracts were completed and the city could hire part-time and reserve police officers and firefighters.”

Parker compared the overtime expenses in June, July and August in 2012 with the same months in 2013 to illustrate her point further.

She said the respective changes, during those months, were $8,000, $13,000, and $12,000, and said it took several changes and several months to get the overtime costs down from about $44,000, a year ago, to the almost $24,000 in overtime the council is concerned about now.

All the changes from the new contract and the implementation of part-time employees, Parker said, are not complete. She has plans to replace the five full-time police officers and have them trained before she moves forward with hiring new, part-time officers, which she expects to be complete around the middle of the fiscal year. This would place hiring those new officers around December or January.

She said the same timeframe is expected for the firefighters, but did not confirm how many full-time firefighters were needed before she will begin hiring reserves.

“With the part-time staff, we will be able to have a situation where the costs of providing services will decrease,” she said. “Primarily because we would not be paying the same level of expense as we would if we were paying for full-time firefighters or police officers.

“Yes, we are making the changes, but all the changes will not take place in 30, 60, or even 90 days. It takes time to do everything required by the contracts, so the bottom line is when we get to the (middle of the fiscal year), we will have a better sense of how everything is coming together.”

(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at ggoodwin@bewickpublications.com.)

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