The Sacramento Fire Department paid nearly $13 million in overtime to firefighters in 2015, according to a new city audit. That is $6 million more than 2012.
City Auditor Jorge Oseguera says a comparison of 2012 to 2015 found the amount of overtime received by the highest wage earners increased dramatically, in some cases by more than 60 percent.
"Some individuals were given the opportunity to put in over 2,000 hours of overtime on top of their normal 3,000 hours of regular time," Oseguera says. "This time around, some of the individuals now exceeded 3,000 hours of overtime and so total time in one year broke the 6,000-hour mark."
That's a work schedule of 115 hours each week.
The Sacramento City Council approved an additional 72 positions within the department for the 24 stations from 2012-2015.
The fire department's Chris Harvey says it did not have enough graduates from its academies to staff those positions, hence the increase in overtime.
"What happened in recent history is we were able to add a couple of apparatuses. We added truck 43 in North Natomas. We also added a couple of ambulances in the last couple of years. So we've created additional FTE positions, additional firefighter vacancies. We were more strapped to have to fill some of those positions."
The audit shows four firefighters or captains made between $132,000 and $169,000 in overtime in 2015. The top four in 2012 made between $73,000 and $95,000 in overtime.
In 2012, the city had 503 firefighters, 13 open positions and slightly less than $7 million in overtime.
In 2015, the city had 516 firefighters, 73 open positions and slightly less than $13 million in overtime.
The department says graduates from its academies should soon be on the payroll, which will eliminate almost all of its overtime problem.
Oseguera says the department could save money now in several ways.
"There is a risk if you don't have adequate time-keeping systems and documentation and controls in place that errors can occur and go undetected. So, in this case, we illustrate that risk by showing some examples of where we able to show these types of errors."
Oseguera estimates the city would save $4 million if it reduced staffing at the eight fire stations with the fewest calls.
The report says, even more savings could be had if more stations staffed engines with three people instead of four.
Oseguera says Sacramento Metro Fire operates with three-person crews.
Below is the full audit.