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Syracuse fire, police address overtime, staffing concerns

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Fire Chief Michael Monds, center.

As budget season nears for the city of Syracuse, councilors are asking where the police and fire departments stand with overtime and staffing. Both departments are understaffed, but are also making efforts to reduce overtime pay.

Syracuse is spending around $10 million a year in overtime for police and fire. Fire Chief Michael Monds said staffing is at the bare minimum and overtime is the lowest it’s been in recent years.

“Hiring a class directly impacts the overtime line," Monds said. "We have more tasks and responsibilities we’re doing. We’re doing more and more with less and less. Some of these things that we have to do, some of these mandated duties, they’re going to have to be done on overtime because there is not enough staff and time during the day to do it.”

The fire department is planning on hiring a new class of 28 people to fill current vacancies and anticipated retirements.

The police department's overtime spending is currently below the amount they were allocated. Police Chief Kent Buckner said they’re looking at ways to reduce it further, including taking police away from administrative responsibilities and modifying their hours.

“Much of the time that they’re receiving this overtime for, is a result of them currently working a 7-3, 8-4 kind of shift, when many of the days they’re required to be at these community meetings, it didn’t make sense to me to have your shift be that early, when we know your primary duties include evening activities,” Buckner said. 

There are more than 60 vacancies in the police department. A graduating class of 32 recruits will begin next month and the department is canvassing for a class of 39 additional officers. Syracuse Councilor-at-Large Steven Thompson said he hopes Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh considers hiring another class of police officers, this fall. 

“As the fire chief mentioned, and we saw with the fire department’s graphs, that when they got their class out in October, the overtime requirement for them diminished significantly, because they had people staffing the functions that they needed,” Thompson said.

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.