PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Firefighters — when you need them, you want them!
But Pittsburgh city taxpayers are paying less for their overtime, says the city’s chief financial officer.
“We’re going to be coming in under budget several million dollars,” Pittsburgh CFO Sam Ashbaugh told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Tuesday.
Ashbaugh says overtime and premium pay, including holidays, has dropped significantly.
In 2013, the city paid just under $18 million in premium pay and overtime.
That’s down nearly $5 million to $13 million this year, even less than originally projected.
The key — getting the Fire Bureau back to full strength.
“We have budgeted 656 firefighters in the budget in the last few years, but we haven’t been there as far as being at budgeted staffing levels until now,” says Ashbaugh.
A decade ago, the Fire Bureau took a hit, says Firefighters Union president Ralph Sicuro.
“In 2004, we lost 94 to retirements. The following year was 249 firefighters retired,” says Sicuro. “So we suffered a tremendous loss.”
That meant increased overtime for those remaining which Sicuro says risked public safety.
“Our firefighters are going to be getting the rest they need. They’re not going to be as fatigued going to work or leaving work.”
After years of skyrocketing overtime, the Peduto administration was determined to get a handle on this through better budget processes and also by increasing personnel so you didn’t need overtime.
The question now is, can you reduce overtime even more?
Maybe but don’t count on it, say the city and firefighters.
“Due to the 24/7 nature of the operation, there is always going to be premium pay or overtime,” says Ashbaugh.
“No, there will not be a day with zero overtime unless you can find a way that no one will get injured and no one will ever be off,” adds Sicuro.