The City of Ketchikan has paid more than a million dollars in overtime this year to city and Ketchikan Public Utilities employees as of the end of August, and Ketchikan City Council members want to know how to reduce that budget item.
To that end, the Council had a special meeting last week to talk about just overtime. But, members weren’t able to come up with a solution, at least not yet.
Council Member Judy Zenge pushed for the special meeting, and said she mainly wanted more information as the Council heads into the annual budget review cycle.
“My intent of this meeting is to find out more about how we do business,” she said. “We have to look really closely at our budget this year. It’s going to take a little bit of raising rates, cuts, and making sure that when we budget for things, we’re budgeting for what we need and not what we want.”
Zenge asked how each department within the city and KPU establishes its overtime budget each year, and what happens when a department surpasses its budgeted overtime.
Finance Director Bob Newell said the departments estimate during the fall budget cycle how much overtime their employees likely will have. When they run over that projection, a budget transfer is required.
“And most of the time those funds are transferred from some other account and not appropriated reserves,” he said. “And quite often, the overtime is related to vacancies, so we transfer money from regular salaries to overtime to cover that shortage.”
Newell says the city has averaged about $128,000 per month in overtime this year.
Council members say they understand the need for overtime in certain departments, such as police and fire; and for utilities workers who need to respond to power outages or broken water pipes.
“What percentage of this million dollars we’re looking at is related to overtime that was unexpected, and what is just simply we haven’t filled positions, or we made a decisions that we don’t need that position and now we’re griping about the overtime?” he said.
Council Member Dick Coose said he’d also like to hear input from city employees about how to cut back on overtime, which he said is excessive.
“There’s over 60 people taking in over five grand in overtime. There’s more than one that’s over $30,000,” he said. “I can’t put my ears around it. You folks have got to put your ears around it and work with us and management on what’s going on. Maybe every bit of it is authorized and maybe every bit of it is legitimate, but that’s a half a body.”
Some of the potential solutions Council members suggested were changing shifts to decrease overtime, and filling positions that are now vacant.
Finance Director Newell told the Council that he’ll have to go through the numbers again to find out how much overtime is related specifically to vacancies, and will bring that back to the Council along with a list of currently empty city and KPU positions.