Clinton Township fire department budgets for increase in overtime

By: Nico Rubello | C&G Newspapers | Published January 11, 2013


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Clinton Township recently budgeted for more dollars for fire department overtime than was originally anticipated.

The township’s governing board voted unanimously on Jan. 7 to approve a request from Fire Chief John Shea for an additional $125,000 to be added to the $700,000 initially budgeted for fire department overtime for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013.

It is likely that some, but not all, of the additionally budgeted dollars will be used.

“Every firefighter has some training coming up very shortly. It will require … a great deal of overtime, which is why the chief is asking for this money now,” said township Supervisor Robert Cannon, referencing the fact that fire department personnel will attend a class that will license the department to provide advanced life-support services.

Generally, budgets are merely projections of anticipated revenues and expenditures and, as such, are routinely adjusted as the fiscal year progresses. Clinton Township’s fiscal years end on March 31.

However, Cannon said the additional overtime won’t put the fire fund in a deficit. The township anticipated that revenues to the fire fund would exceed expenditures by $176,520.

Shea said the increase in overtime hours has come as fire department workers have retired and not been replaced.

The department has lost three positions since December to retirements, and three more retirements by the end of February are expected, he said. Two others, a fire officer and firefighter, also have been on leave since September, on sickness and injury.

Clinton Township Trustee Kenneth Pearl said he didn’t have a problem budgeting for additional overtime, given the need for it, but he added that a longer-range plan was needed.

“We can’t keep spending this kind of money in overtime in the long (term) and not replace personnel,” Pearl said.

On the whole, the township fire department has 64 firefighters in suppression, down from 84 at its peak level in 2008, not to mention two fire inspectors and a training officer. The decrease, which have come through attrition and layoffs, have been made as the township has lost millions of dollars in tax revenue since 2008. Like the police fund, the fire fund primarily relies on tax revenues.

Shea added that a reimbursement program will allow the township to be reimbursed for $36,000 of the overtime accrued for training purposes.

The overtime increase was compounded by the fact that the township was using overtime to keep up staffing while it waited eight months to hear back from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on a waiver request pertaining to the 2010 SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant awarded to the township, Shea said.

Tim Duncan, president of the union representing Clinton Township firefighters, Clinton Township Fire Local 1381, said that overtime is awarded in such a way that fire department personnel with the least number of hours are offered the first opportunity, so no one person accumulates an extreme amount of overtime.

Also, the fire department has reduced the number of fire vehicles active on a daily basis from seven to five.

“The administration is doing a good job on trying to keep the reins on the overtime,” Duncan added.