Report says San Diego Fire-Rescue Department should hire additional personnel

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department should consider hiring additional personnel instead of relying on overtime to fill staffing vacancies, according to a city auditor’s report released Monday.

According to the report on overtime practices in the SDFRD, the department has traditionally relied on firefighters taking overtime to fill in for colleagues who are sick, injured, assigned elsewhere or on vacation, because it was cheaper than hiring additional employees.

Because of a pension reform measure passed by voters two years ago, that’s no longer the case, according to the auditor’s report.

One of the three recommendations in the report is to have the department determine the optimal number of new firefighters to hire so overtime would no longer be as necessary.

Overtime has consumed 25 to 30 percent of the fire department’s personnel budget in the last three fiscal years, according to the audit. The report found that in Fiscal Year 2013, individual firefighters were budgeted for 2,920 hours of annual work but averaged around 3,600. Some worked more than 6,500 hours.

The shift in focus to hiring additional firefighters would bring both financial and non-financial benefits to the city, according to the report.

“These benefits include controlling overtime costs; budgeting personnel expenditures more accurately; reducing the potential for firefighter fatigue and improving firefighter safety; reducing liability; having a larger workforce available for deployment in case of an emergency; and, in the future, having a relief factor to reduce mandatory overtime,” the report said.

The SDFRD should also develop a timekeeping system to ensure the reliability of payroll data, and confer with the Human Resources Department and Financial Management on the financial impact of not capping the accrual of annual leave.

The SDFRD has agreed to all three recommendations, according to the auditor.

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