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Proposed Syracuse budget allocates $13 million in overtime to police, fire departments

Tom Magnarelli
Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler at a council budget hearing.

A deficit of more than $18 million currently exists in the proposed budget of the city of Syracuse. About $13 million dollars is being allocated in overtime to the police and fire departments. Some councilors say the way to reduce overtime is to hire more staff.

Syracuse Fire Chief Paul Linnertz said the department has 28 firefighters in training.

“But we’re expecting that this influx of firefighters is going to temporarily reduce the amount of overtime we have through the next few months," Linnertz said. "But then as people continue to retire, that number will change again, there will always be the need for overtime.”

Retirement is also a concern for the police department. More than 100 officers are eligible for retirement. The mayor's proposed budget only allocates for the 434 police officers currently on the force. Councilor Joe Nicoletti said that needs to change.

“I believe the council and the mayor should come together and figure out a way to add more police officers to the roster and begin to aggressively recruit another class that represents the entire diversity of our community," Nicoletti said. "I’m going to push for that. Every neighborhood meeting I go to, it is not unusual for people to come up and say we need more police, we need more police officers. There is no question that these are difficult financial times, but I think that they require us to be more innovative.”

Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler wants to bring the number of police officers up to 450.

“That is an actual number that I can work with to show an actual reduction in overtime,” Fowler said. "What we have to take into consideration is what we can afford. I'm not unrealistic. I would love to have more police officers but can we afford them? If that answer is no, we're not going to see anymore police officers. But if the answer is yes, and we get more police officers, you're looking at a happy guy right here."

Fowler said without an incentive to stay longer, he expects the turnover rate could be very high in the near-future.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.