The Palo Alto Fire Department has burned through half of its annual overtime budget -- $718,000 -- during this fiscal year compared with $571,000 spent during this period last year, a new city report states.
Aside from sending firefighters to help at the Rim Fire near Yosemite, the increase largely came from everyday expenses: workers' compensation, open positions, succession planning, sick leave, vacation and other types of leave.
Eight members of the fire department have been on paid leave for workers' compensation this quarter, compared to four in the same period last year, according to a report from the city manager's office. The department also had four vacancies on its front line compared to two last year.
Much of the expenses can be attributed to training costs, the report states. More than $40,000 in overtime was spent to train personnel for new positions to prepare for promotions to battalion chief, captain and apparatus operator later in the year. A frontline employee also assisted in training for these positions, which created backfill overtime. Training for captains and acting captains in a command and control system also ate up overtime.
During the dry summer months the department staffed the seasonal Fire Station #8 with overtime to protect communities in the Foothills from wildfires and support the Community Services' youth summer programs at Foothills Park. These expenses were similar to last year's, the report states.
The Stanford Fire agreement reimburses 30.3 percent of overtime expenses and reports them as department revenue.
Finally, the cost of aiding at the massive Rim Fire added up to around $20,000 in overtime costs, but that money will be reimbursed by the California Office of Emergency Services.
The department announced that it will begin in January a plan to reduce overtime costs between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., when calls for service are less frequent.