Montgomery County has spent $10.8 million in overtime since July
Firestine: Extra work for pay is on downward trend'
Overtime pay to Montgomery County workers rose 18.5 percent in the first quarter of the fiscal year, bucking a downward trend that has been evident since 2008.
County government employees earned about $10.8 million in overtime from July through September, according to an analysis released Friday by CountyStat.
"Overtime has been a problem in county government for a long time," said county spokesman Patrick K. Lacefield.
The bulk of overtime in the first quarter of fiscal 2011, which began July 1, was paid to employees in the county's Department of Fire and Rescue Services $3.47 million.
Overtime is used primarily because of staffing shortages and vacancies in officer, driver and paramedic positions, county Fire Chief Richard Bowers said.
Last year, about $14.3 million in overtime was paid to fire and rescue employees. This year, the department has an overtime budget of $9.4 million.
Lacefield said that fire and rescue employees were not being paid overtime to campaign on the ambulance fee ballot issue. Uniformed firefighters have been distributing campaign materials and were working the polls Tuesday while on duty.
Despite the first quarter increase, the county has reduced overtime expenses by about $20 million since 2008.
"It's a downward trend," said Timothy Firestine, the county's chief administrative officer.
Most overtime is paid to employees in the fire service, Montgomery County Police Department, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Corrections.
In the first quarter of fiscal 2011, about $2.9 million was paid to police in overtime pay. The department has an overtime budget in fiscal 2011 of $10.5 million.
The Department of Transportation has budgeted $4 million for overtime in fiscal 2011 and has spent about $1.5 million. About $440,000 of DOT's overtime expenses were related to storm response during the summer.
The Department of Corrections paid out $657,313 in overtime in the first quarter of fiscal 2011, the report shows.
Department heads said during a meeting Friday that they were focused on reducing overtime expenses.
"We're not there yet, but we're getting there," Bowers said.
Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said some of his overtime expenses were planned, but others were needed to respond to emergencies, such as the incident in September when a gunman entered the Discovery Communications building in downtown Silver Spring.
Manger said he expects his overtime expenses to decrease beginning in January, when a change in state law no longer will require police officers to be summoned for traffic citations unless the driver requests a court date. Manger said the change could save the department $1 million annually in overtime expenses.
Lacefield said that the county also has worked to reduce costs by giving overtime to lower-paid employees.