Perrysburg's fire and police chiefs recently brought their 2013 department budgets before council's Service-Safety Committee for review, and the tug-of-war between desired staffing and constrained finances was again played out.
Councilman Thomas Mackin voiced concern about an increase in the line for overtime in the fire department's budget from 2012, recalling that the department had expressed an intention to keep it flat and stop the acceleration.
"We have no choice," Fire Chief Jeff Klein said.
The chief said shift coverage accounts for a quarter of overtime expenses. Call volume is up and firefighters were sustaining new kinds of injuries, he said.
Mr. Mackin said more people did not necessarily translate to bigger financial savings. "You gotta start looking outside the box," he said.
Chief Klein said that to reduce overtime and maintain levels of service the department would have to add staff, however he was not making such a recommendation.
"I think the format that we have today is the best that we can do," he said.
Chief Klein said he has tried to reduce training costs, including an online class for $35 per person, but that individual training did not meet all of the department's needs.
"The problem is, everything we do is team-based. ... If you don't practice as a team, it's hard to succeed as a team," he said.
Separately, the committee agreed 3-0 to the chief's request to increase wages for part-paid volunteer firefighters to keep pace with the increase in the federal minimum wage that will take effect Jan. 1.
The pay scale will range from $8.44 an hour per call for a new hire; $10.17 firefighter; $11.96 firefighter first class; $12.31 lieutenant; and $12.66 captain.
Police Chief Daniel Paez also said an increase in officers out sick had strained his budget for overtime.
"We've had a really bad year also," he said.
Chief Paez said his department needed another dispatcher, noting that one employee in that job had racked up 600 hours of overtime in one year. He said he can't keep dispatchers from quitting because the hours are too demanding.
Mr. Mackin asked whether consolidating dispatch with other county entities was a solution, but the chief expressed hesitation to give up local control and personal service.
The fire and police budgets received grudging support from the committee. "Control what you can," advised councilman John Kevern.
Contact Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-356-8786.
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