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Council Auditor: Jax firefighters burning through overtime

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Updated: 5/17/2013 8:30 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It's a budget blow that local firefighters say could put your safety at risk. JFRD is running out of its budgeted overtime hours.

When a fire breaks out, each passing minute could mean the difference between life or death. But a new report questions how long our firefighters are on the clock.

Action News obtained the latest budget review from the Council Auditor's Office. It states a costly concern of firefighters burning through overtime and your tax dollars doing it.

"It's disturbing when you see these kinds of numbers."

We showed City Councilman Bill Gulliford the new numbers.

"I don't know of any significant events that would cause a spike in overtime," said Gulliford. "So what's really going to be interesting is the specifics of why all the overtime."

The report has JFRD spending $1.8 million on overtime for the entire year. But so far, the department has already spent 72 percent of that approved budget. That money is supposed to last the whole year.

"If some of that is a special event like a concert or something like that, the promoters are paying for that," said Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters.

Action News went to city officials to get you answers. A spokesman for JFRD tells us the department is activating 24 new recruits Monday. Law requires minimum staffing at each company and JFRD says more recruits could mean fewer overtime hours.

"Sure you could cut that overtime, you could stop it right now but then what you'd have is companies out of service, delayed response times," said Wyse.

The report also shares concerns over spending in the city's Special Events department. The projected unfavorable variance of $118,265 in salaries is mostly due to a projected unfavorable variance in overtime salaries.

"The Office of Special Events has historically been unable to operate within its approved budget for overtime salaries, and we recommend more realistic budgeting of this expenditure in the future."

Action News asked a city spokesperson if overtime hours were connected to the Carrier Classic basketball game, which lost more than $700,000 for the city of Jacksonville. We were told those hours were not.

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