Memo for fiscal year 2017, updated 2016-04-05

[Archived] What is total budgeted overtime for Fire Marshals if Council were to approve the additional $39,330 that is proposed?

The FY 2016 budget for the Fire Marshal overtime pay is $32,280. This includes not only overtime, but standby pay, training overtime, court overtime and callback pay. The total budget for Fire Marshal overtime pay in FY 2017, including the additional $39,330 proposed, would be $71,610. 

The Alexandria Fire Department performance indicator “percent of scheduled fire inspections of City buildings that are completed” was only 55% in FY 2015, which is noticeably below the target of 95%. This discrepancy suggests that there are a noticeable number of inspections that were not completed and are outstanding. However, it is difficult to determine what the appropriate number of inspections completed in any given year should be due to the large variance in time and scope of each inspection. One inspection may take 30 minutes whereas another may take 6 hours. Thus, AFD looks at delinquent inspections as a measure of effectiveness. AFD has seen a noticeable increase in delinquent inspections since the staffing reduction. In FY 2014, delinquent inspections were 129, whereas in FY 2015 they totaled 157. For FY 2016 year to date, the department already has 181 delinquent inspections. The current staffing levels are such that the fire prevention program is only able to prioritize the highest hazard inspections, and as a result lower level hazard inspections are not conducted. The growth in delinquent inspections over the past two years suggests that the current staffing levels cannot meet demand for inspections.

After examining several different options on how to best address the lack of inspections, staff determined overtime, in the short-term, is the recommended solution to this problem. Increasing funding for overtime is more cost-effective than hiring part-time inspectors, or using retirees to assist with inspections. Current personnel are already trained and know which properties need inspection.

The additional $39,330 proposed equates to overtime of 20 hours per week for 26 weeks, and would allow the Fire Prevention Program to inspect more City buildings. More staff time could be dedicated to proactive fire prevention, which should reduce the number of fires that occur in the City. AFD expects that this proposal would reduce the number of outstanding fire inspections by 20-25 per month. Once the proposed additional overtime funds are exhausted, the department would no longer devote additional overtime to “catch up” on fire inspections. However, this use of targeted overtime would only be used on catching up on missing fire inspections. After implementing this proposed use of funds, AFD can then assess how effective use of overtime was to address the issue of outstanding inspections, and also address Fire Marshal staffing implications with more understanding moving forward.

The inclusion of the overtime for FY 2017 by the City Manager is intended to be a stop-gap action. The City Manager will be assigning OMB and OPA staff to undertake a study of the workload, prioritization, and alternative fire inspection options in advance of the FY 2018 budget process.

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