JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department has already spent its overtime budget for the current fiscal year, according to city officials. About $1.9 million was budgeted for overtime expenses for the period from Oct. 1st, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2014.
"Overtime shouldn't be such an enormous number,” said Jacksonville City Council Member Richard Clark, a member of the council’s finance committee. “If we were properly staffed that wouldn't happen."
Calculations obtained by Action News show overtime expenditures have routinely exceeded the overtime budget with few exceptions. Last fiscal year, JFRD spent roughly $4.8 million on overtime. The budget was $2.4 million.
“We've had people retire and there's a normal attrition factor,” said Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters. “So we haven't been replacing people. We've been placing units in service and not increasing the staffing.”
JFRD recently received a federal grant that will help with the hiring of 67 new firefighters. More could also be hired this year, which should help with the overtime issue.
“Things are going to get better, but you play the cards you are dealt,” Wyse said. “And it was a tough hand to play.”
Clark told Action News that he will push for more realistic numbers when it comes not only to overtime but also staffing issues during the upcoming budget cycle.