Scottsdale police exceed overtime budget by nearly $1 million through March

The Scottsdale Police Department exceeded its overtime budget for employees by nearly $1 million in the first nine months of the budget year, prompting the city’s top officials to seek an in-depth analysis to reduce overtime spending.

“This has been a recurring issue in the Police Department for several years,” Scottsdale City Manager Fritz Behring said. “Obviously some type of an in-depth analysis or review of the issue has to be conducted.”

From July through March, the Police Department’s budget for overtime was $3.39 million.

The actual spending, however, was $4.37 million, resulting in the cost overrun of about $980,000, according to figures provided by the city’s Budget Department.

Scottsdale’s fiscal year started July 1 and ends June 30.

The Police Department has been able to offset the overage with current savings, said Judy Doyle, Scottsdale’s budget director.

The department said it expects to end the fiscal year $415,000 over budget.

Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane agreed that the overage issue has “come up repeatedly” but at the same time “hasn’t been resolved.”

A Republic analysis of overtime data, obtained through a public-records request, showed that of the 822 employees who received overtime in the prior fiscal year, the average annual payout was $7,880. Fifty-eight employees received greater than $20,000 each in overtime.

Lane said overtime “certainly does increase average compensation, which has consequences on retirements and other costs.”

“But do I think it’s too much? No,” he said. “Our staffing in the wintertime might be considered a little low, so you supplement it with overtime. It’s a positive.”

Lane said some of the overtime issues stem from Scottsdale’s tourism industry and the fact that the city has event seasons that require different levels of police staffing.

Lane said the analysis is likely “too late to have an impact on it this fiscal year.” But it will help develop techniques and strategies on how to address it in the future, he said.

Behring said the city treasurer’s office and auditor will help conduct the overtime analysis, which could occur this summer. Police overtime “has happened for three years in a row or more,” Behring said.

Scottsdale police Sgt. Mark Clark said a few factors are driving the overage:

• Salaries from vacant positions are being swept from the department’s budget, reducing the approved amount for full-time wages each month. Through April, nearly $540,000 has been swept from the department’s budget, he said.

• The communications section, which includes mostly dispatchers, had “a significant number of vacancies” at the start of the fiscal year, he said. Most of the vacancies have been filled, but “training takes between nine to 12 months to be fully functioning,” he said. The additional overtime was necessary and accounts for about $144,500 of the overtime overage, he said.

• An increase in police personnel at events.

• An increase of emergency calls out for SWAT and police crisis-intervention services.

Clark said the Police Department is using special strategies to cut down on overtime hours. Police have relied on specialty-unit employees, such as traffic and school-resource officers, to fill gaps in patrol squads and meet basic staffing levels, Clark said. Patrol districts also are sharing resources to fill gaps in squads, he said.

Cindy Hill,a candidate for Scottsdale council, and executive director of the Police Officers of Scottsdale Association Outreach, said the city has failed to address manpower shortages in public safety. At a council meeting Tuesday, Hill said the Police Department “is short almost 30 officers from the last time the Valley played host to the Super Bowl.”

City Councilman Bob Littlefield said the overtime spending is “a symptom of a larger problem, which is that we have a police staffing problem.”

“Bottom line, if we don’t fix this problem ASAP, we will pay for it later in reduced public safety and higher costs for overtime, recruiting and training,” he said.

Vice Mayor Virginia Korte said she also supports the overtime analysis, as well as a larger look at the city’s public safety in general. The city is doing another full analysis of police pay and retention, due out later this year, that was spurred in part by claims that Scottsdale is losing officers to other agencies.

Article source: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/scottsdale/2014/05/18/scottsdale-police-exceed-overtime-budget-nearly-million-march/2241130/