The Joliet Fire Department spent almost its entire overtime budget in the first five months of the year, according to a staff report.
A 42 percent increase in sick days taken during the first six months of the year aggravated the spending, said the report, which was presented to the City Council’s Finance Committee on Tuesday.
Fire Chief Joe Formhals told the committee this week that the hiring of new firefighters, bringing the department back to full staffing, should reduce spending.
The fire department had spent about $1.6 million of a
$1.7 million overtime budget by the end of May, according to the report presented to the committee. The report, which only covered spending through May, noted the entire overtime budget likely would be depleted in June.
“We just received the OK to appoint an additional seven people,” Formhals told the committee.
Formhals said the fire department is getting back to full staffing after hiring eight firefighters earlier this year. The additional people should be on board between August and November, he said.
Through May, fire department spending on overtime was $874,000 over budget.
The report, prepared by city budget officer Ken Mihelich, points to the staffing shortfall as the primary reason for overtime spending in the first half of the year.
But it also noted the effects of sick time and other time off.
A total of 152 sick days were taken by the end of May, compared with 114 at the same point in 2017.
“Overtime occurs primarily when absences create shortages and staff are called back to fill these positions,” the report said.
The report also notes the effect of vehicles being out of service for repairs.
Formhals said he has had to substitute equipment that requires more staffing for an aging quint truck and a tower truck.
Earlier this year, the city put on hold Formhals’ proposal to replace the aging quint and tower truck with two new quints after firefighters protested, contending quints are not as well-equipped.
A quint requires three firefighters, whereas most stations have a fire engine and truck that require five. The tower truck requires four firefighters.
In May, the City Council decided to repair a basket in the tower truck rather than replace it. Formhals noted one quint is a 1994 model that often requires repairs.
“Every day it’s in service is a blessing, I guess,” he told the committee.