City of Brandon overtime costs totalled just under $1.3 million in 2018 — buoyed in large part by the cost of fighting the May fire that destroyed several buildings downtown.
Firefighter overtime jumped more than $100,000 in 2018 compared to 2017, according to the city’s annual compensation disclosure. In 2017, Brandon firefighters were paid $255,611 in overtime, but in 2018 the amount was $362,110.
City manager Rod Sage said the overtime increase is likely due to the downtown fire, with "a lot of overtime" assigned with those fighting the fire.
The City of Brandon released its annual compensation disclosure report on Monday, which lists the city employees who made more than $50,000 in the last calendar year. The report is a requirement under the province’s Public Sector Compensation Disclosure Act.
Brandon fire Chief Scott McDonald said he hadn’t had the chance to review last year’s overtime numbers, but agreed 2018’s jump likely had to do with the downtown fire.
"That’s quite possible, that would be a significant impact on our overtime budget. That was a significant event that required the engagement of a lot of our resources last year."
Firefighter overtime costs have been rising over the last three years. In 2016, firefighters were paid a total of $199,930 in overtime and since then it has climbed by more than $150,000.
According to Brandon Police Service’s 2018 annual report, the fire resulted in 225 overtime hours among city police. When combined with hiring additional outside security to secure the scene, the fire cost Brandon police $28,307.22. In total, 155.5 overtime hours went to patrols, 39 hours for traffic/bylaw, 12.5 hours for forensic identification and 18 hours for crime.
While firefighter overtime rose during the last three years, police overtime has fallen. In 2016, police officers worked $597,376 worth of overtime, but this fell to $562,269 and $512,897 in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Brandon police Chief Wayne Balcaen said the reduction is a deliberate effort and the department hired an internal finance manager to look at overtime hours. He said the police run "pretty stringent" reports on overtime.
"Our inspectors of the areas get monthly reports on where our overtime is being spent, and with these robust reports some our hot points and where can look at changing shifts or changing deployment of resources so that we have better coverage and less overtime."
Balcaen said some hours are the result of long investigations or appearing in court, but that officers can also sign up for "funded overtime." When an officer volunteers for this work the cost is covered by outside police agencies.
Overtime costs are considered by the city in each of its six yearly budget reviews, Sage said.
"We’re looking at the overtime and saying ‘OK, is the overtime in line with where it should be? How is it affecting the overall budget and what’s driving the overtime?’ … Overtime is something we’re very aware of, but at the same time I’m going to be the first to tell you that it’s not something that local government can eliminate."
While the costs might rise in a given year, he said the solution isn’t always to hire more employees. Maintenance issues that need an immediate response like a water main breaking at 3 a.m. or a heavy snowstorm means overtime has to happen.
"At the end of the day, it is much more effective to pay overtime to one employee as opposed to hire another employee or get another piece of equipment. You’ve got to take all those things into play."
The number of city employees who made more than $100,000 last year was also up. In 2017, 114 people made more than six figures, but in 2018 this grew to 128 city employees. Sage said this is a result of the collective bargaining agreements the city has with unionized employees.
"We are bound by the terms of the collective agreement so we can’t deviate from that. … I’m not surprised by how they move because we already anticipate that. They go into our annual budgets year over year."
Many of the city’s top earners are police officers. While their names are not listed due to privacy concerns, 64 Brandon Police Service employees made more than $100,000 before overtime in 2018.
Out of the police employees listed in the compensation disclosure report, the average salary is just greater than $100,000 — at $100,444. The average salary for all City of Brandon employees on the list is $81,297. That number is likely skewed high as it does not take into account those who make below $50,000.
Topping the list of city employees was Sage, who according to the city’s disclosure made $200,823.95 in 2018. Following him was the chief of police, who made $179,178, and the previous fire chief, who made $164,992.
According to the list, 459 city employees made more than $50,000 last year. For 2019, the disclosure limit is set to go up to $75,000, so fewer employees will be listed.
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