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Fire Chief responds to costly overtime concerns

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Updated: 5/20/2013 9:05 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Local firefighters are running out of allotted overtime hours. But the Chief tells Action News his department is making more hires to cut back on overtime costs.

Action News was first to tell you about a report questioning how long our firefighters are on the clock, burning through overtime and your tax dollars.

“We must keep fire stations open every day,” said Chief Marty Senterfitt with JFRD. “And so if we're short even a few employees then we're forced to do overtime."

According to the report issued by the council auditor, JFRD already used 72 percent of its budgeted overtime pay, only half way through the year.

The council auditor predicts at this rate, overtime will cost tax payers $1.8 million bucks over budget. That means Fire & Rescue could spend $4.2 million, just on overtime in fiscal year 2012-2013.

We did some digging to compare and found JFRD spent $4.8 million in overtime pay in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, $3.6 million the year before.

Fire Chief Marty Senterfitt tells Action News, costs went up after staffing went down. “Unlike other businesses, we don't hire individuals, we hire classes. So we have to wait until there's enough of a work force shortage so we can bring in 24 people at a time."

Action News was there as JFRD activated its latest crop of new recruits Monday. The chief admits that he delayed these hires due to previous budget shortfalls.

“It was just last year and the year before that we were laying people off,” said Senterfitt. “We didn't want to hire people and then turn around and possibly lay them off. So we intentionally delayed a little bit until the economy stabilized and now we're hiring again."

Chief Senterfitt promises his department will produce a balanced budget. He says more staff will help alleviate the existing ballooning overtime budget.
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